Becoming a Capable and Accountable System
A Review of Professional Development and Curriculum
in the Baltimore City Public School System
Education Resource Strategies
Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
Table of Contents
1..... Executive Summary
9..... Baltimore: A City in Need of Strong Schools
The Current State of Student Achievement in Baltimore 10
The Current State of the School System: A Climate of Crisis 12
The Potential for Improvement 14
Blueprints for Accountable Improvement: The Professional Development
and Curriculum Review 15
17... Introduction to the Three-Part Study
19... A Review of the Underlying Issues in the Baltimore City
Public School System
Primary Finding 19
The Framework for the Review of Underlying Issues 20
A Capable System: Structure and Support for Schools 20
An Accountable System: Data and Decision Making 25
Building Public Commitment 26
31... Professional Development Strategy and Spending Review of
the Baltimore City Public School System
Primary Finding 31
The Framework for the Professional Development Review 32
Supporting Findings 32
Major Findings of the Audit 34
Professional Development Days…37
Teacher Planning Time…38
School-Level Professional Development Resources…39
Academic Literacy Coaches…43
53... A Review of the Literacy and Mathematics Curriculum of the
Baltimore City Public School System
Primary Finding 53
The Framework for the Curriculum Review 54
Supporting Findings 55
THE LITERACY CURRICULUM REVIEW 59
Primary Finding 59
The Intended Curriculum 59
The Enacted Curriculum 60
The Assessed Curriculum 65
THE MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM REVIEW 69
Primary Finding 69
The Intended Curriculum 70
The Enacted Curriculum 72
The Assessed Curriculum 77
ADDENDUM TO THE CURRICULUM REVIEW: THE EXTENDED CURRICULUM 83
T he reviews presented in this report are a collaborative effort on the part of
many people. The researchers wish to thank:
The Baltimore teachers, principals, and students who spoke with us about their
current experiences and their hopes for the future of the city’s schools.
Members of the central office of the Baltimore City Public School System who,
along with Area Academic Officers, discussed their work and their vision for
The staff of the Fund for Educational Excellence, who facilitated the many
interviews and site visits that informed the review process: Milli Pierce,
Jennifer Economos Green, Roxanne White, Kerry Whitacre, Chris Higgins,
and Yanette Clark.
The members of the Steering Committee for the two reviews who met regularly
with the two teams of researchers and shared their knowledge of the city and
state, insisting that we craft clear recommendations that could turn into feasible
and productive actions.
The staff of the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the Maryland State
Department of Education, who gave generously of their time, creating a larger
context for the two reviews.
Staff at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform who supported the work and
helped to turn the first draft into this final report: Susan Fisher, Haewon Kim,
Margaret Balch-Gonzalez, Bob Rothman, Mary Arkins, and Tyanne Carter.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System iii
O ver the past two years, the Baltimore City Public School System (B C P S S )
has – by most indicators of organizational health – struggled to overcome
the habits of a system that has been in deep crisis for as many as three decades.
A long history of poor fiscal and organizational management resulted in a debt
of nearly $60 million and a widely acknowledged need to reorganize central
office, the system of academic “Areas,” and related support services throughout
At the same time, the district has experienced heightened requirements of
accountability for increased student performance at both the state and federal
levels. The federal No Child Left Behind Act, enacted in 2002, requires every
state to develop a methodology by which schools make “adequate yearly
progress” (AY P ) toward all students’ demonstrating proficiency in reading and
mathematics, with annual increments in consequences for schools that do not
show AY P . In response, the Maryland State Department of Education developed a
new Voluntary State Curriculum (V S C ) to align teaching and learning across the
state with federal accountability goals. Beginning in 2003, new state assessments
were administered annually to gauge whether schools and districts make AY P .
Until 2004, B C P SS has shown critically low levels of student achievement as
measured by these tests.
It was in this context that the Maryland State Board of Education rejected the dis-
trict’s master plan – the key to accessing major federal and state resources for
public education – as failing to put forth a coherent and efficient plan for using
these resources. In addition, the state required the district to implement a set of
“corrective actions.” The new chief executive officer of B C P S S , Bonnie Copeland,
together with Nancy Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, ordered two
external audits – one focused on the district’s use of its professional development
resources and one focused on the alignment between the V S C , the district cur-
riculum, and classroom practice. Finally, the district continued to carry the
weight of a long-running court case about the inadequacy of funding and serv-
ices, which was likely to create major state-district tensions over resources.
The Fragile Potential for Continued Improvement
Given the severity of this situation, the district has demonstrated considerable
will in addressing the most pressing crises: the negotiation of a loan from the city,
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 1
an aggressive repayment schedule, and the elimination of nearly a thousand posi-
tions without making deep cuts in school programs. In addition, Copeland has
begun to address the next, and most pressing, set of issues: building the capacity
of her central office and Area Academic Offices to lead instructional improve-
ment. In fact, the district posted initial, but significant, gains in student achieve-
ment on the 2004 state accountability measures in reading and mathematics at
the elementary school level.
However, this potential is fragile. There are deep-rooted systemic problems in
teaching and learning: expectations are low and students are engaged in routine
tasks. Many teachers work hard and create safe and stable classroom environ-
ments for even the poorest children in the city, but they do not have the knowl-
edge or skills to hold these same children to the high standards they must meet
to qualify for college or the workplace. Few principals are prepared to be instruc-
tional leaders in schools in which teachers are responsible for ensuring that all
children reach high standards of performance. As a whole, the system lacks
accountability – children, not educators, feel the consequences when they do not
score well. Families, the press, and the wider public are losing patience; they fear
another round of disappointment.
While these problems may well have roots in earlier practices, it is time for the
current administration to address them. The new Board of School Commission-
ers, the C E O , and the district’s partners all face a choice – they can continue to
react to various crises as they emerge, or they can adopt a systemic and proactive
program to hold themselves responsible for improving the quality of public edu-
cation at B C P S S .
Blueprints for Improvement: The Professional Development
and Curriculum Reviews
In July 2003, Nancy Grasmick, Maryland’s chief state school officer, specified the
corrective actions that B C P S S must take to improve its operations and perform-
ance. Central to these corrective actions were two external audits, one focused
on curriculum and the other focused on the district’s approach to professional
In 2003–2004, the external audits were conducted by two independent organiza-
• Researchers from Educational Resource Strategies (E R S ) examined how the dis-
trict utilizes its professional development resources.
• Researchers from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (A I S R ) examined
the alignment of the district and state curriculum and the quality of instruction
in literacy and mathematics as delivered in classrooms.
Throughout the investigation, findings and emerging questions were presented to
a Steering Committee composed of members of B C P S S central office, the Mary-
land State Department of Education, the Fund for Educational Excellence and
major funders. Thus, the findings and recommendations in this report have been
developed in close collaboration with the organizations responsible for imple-
In the course of their work, both teams determined it was vital to integrate their
investigations and findings to form a concise picture of how stated policies are
translated at the district, school, and classroom level. In addition, the teams
agreed to present findings on the district infrastructure and its capacity to use
information and data to make decisions and communicate with its partners and
public. While these issues were not included in the specific request for the audits,
the teams found that they were integrally related to the principal concerns of the
study; the weak structure of the district and the strained communications with its
partners and public affect the district’s ability to improve professional develop-
ment and curriculum.
Thus, this report includes three sections: one on the capability, accountability,
and communications of the system; one on the use of professional development
resources; and one on the alignment of the curriculum. These reviews were
designed to produce blueprints for immediate, feasible actions leading to
“accountable improvement” in professional training and in teaching and learning.
Summary of Major Findings
The following are the review teams’ findings regarding the B C P SS system, the use
of professional development resources, and the curriculum.
FINDINGS ON STRUCTURE, USE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND COMMUNICATION
In interviews with educators at all levels and an examination of key documents
and press reports, the review teams developed a picture of the infrastructure of
the B C P S S , its use of knowledge and data, and its communications with its stake-
holders. All of these issues must be addressed if the specific review recommenda-
tions about professional development and curriculum are to take root and yield
♦ B C P S S currently lacks the capacity to make substantial improvement in teaching
• B C P S S lacks a well-structured central office with the capacity and infrastructure
to support high-quality teaching and learning in its elementary, middle, and
• B C P S S tends to place more emphasis on compliance than on partnership and
• Currently, the Academic Areas cannot function as nimble and differentiated
units for supporting schools.
• The district allows schools to employ a patchwork of varied curricular pro-
grams, diversely implemented, without attempting to achieve coherence.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 3
• B C P SS does not have a coherent approach to developing the skills and knowl-
edge of its school and district leadership. This includes Area Academic Officers
(A A O s), principals, lead teachers and coaches.
• Available supports for improving teaching and learning are not used well. This
is particularly true for support/content teachers and coaches – both major
investments of district resources.
♦ B C P S S is not currently an accountable system. It does not use data effectively
to inform its decision making, target its resources, evaluate investments, or hold
employees responsible for the quality of their work.
• At both the central and Area offices, it is often difficult to obtain data that is
vital to effective planning, accountability, or program evaluation.
• At present, the staff at central office, A A O s, and schools rely chiefly on lagging
indicators, such as student test scores, that arrive too late for making interven-
tions and provide little information about the causes for performance. An
accountable system must utilize diagnostic, formative indicators to drive
BCPSS has lost the support and belief of the community it serves.
• Press coverage of B C P SS has shifted from initially supportive to increasingly
• Continued public forums to address key issues may prove to be an important
communication strategy. These settings have been both effective and informa-
♦ B C P S S serves many masters: federal, state, and local governments; funders; tax-
payers; students; and families. Without a coordinated and prioritized set of goals
and benchmarks, the district is unlikely to improve teaching and learning.
FINDINGS ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
In addition to the points above, researchers from E R S found that:
♦ B C P S S invests significant resources ($58 million dollars, or approximately 6 per-
cent of its operating budget) on professional development of teachers, a substantial
investment relative to other districts. But the investment is not structured for maximum
• Investment varies widely across schools and programs in ways that do not
dependably match the varying needs of students, teachers, coaches, principals,
schools, A A O s, or other recipients.
• The district spends $20 million on teacher salaries for contracted workdays
designated for professional development. There is little guidance and no
accountability for the effective use of this important investment. Meanwhile,
the lack of common planning time for teachers limits the impact of the invest-
ment in professional development.
♦ B C P S S has made a substantial investment in coaching as a strategy for improving
the quality of instruction without making the necessary investments in planning,
selection, and training. These resources are not distributed strategically and there is
• Coaching resources vary dramatically across schools and in ways that are not
always consistent with the current levels of student performance or teacher
• The district has invested in several promising models of professional develop-
ment and school improvement, including the C E O ’s model, Achievement First,
and Direct Instruction.
• However, there has been no consistent effort to identify and spread best prac-
tices in the coaching programs based on data on student achievement or the
quality of classroom instruction.
♦ B C P S S invests significant resources in new teacher induction, but there is no
career development strategy and the induction activities do not link to school-level
FINDINGS ON CURRICULUM
In addition to the points above, researchers from A I SR found that:
♦ The district curriculum is becoming better aligned to state standards, but teachers
lack the support they need to provide rigorous and appropriate learning opportuni-
ties for their students.
• The district does not have a central office staff structured to support improve-
ment. Nor is there the depth of knowledge to support principals, teachers, and
coaches in making substantive change in major subject areas such as literacy
• Across the district, teachers and coaches have no coherent approach to literacy
or mathematics. Thus, students moving around within the district encounter
very different messages about what constitutes high performance.
♦ Many B C P S S students encounter a steady diet of routinized, basic skills instruction
that is rarely challenging or motivating. Observations of B C P S S classrooms and
assignments reveal that:
• Students are accustomed to “being told what to do” rather than generating new
understandings, questions, or points of view. “Routine work” of low cognitive
demand occurs frequently across grades and subject areas.
• Students practice the same skills across as many as four grades; there is uncer-
tain articulation across grades or levels of schooling;
• Students struggle to read the materials intended to form the backbone of class-
room instruction; as a result, many teachers often invent their instructional
materials. These vary from thoughtful adaptations of texts and hands-on
demonstrations to serial photocopying out of “activity books” that bear no rela-
tion to the standards-based curriculum. The latter is most prevalent in the
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 5
♦ B C P S S teachers work in heterogeneous classrooms without the training to differen-
tiate instruction to meet students’ needs.
B C P SShas a long history of failing to address the needs of special populations
(e.g., students with disabilities, gifted and talented, children who have experi-
enced sustained poverty, etc.). Despite major court cases, general education
teachers still have little experience in (or, in some cases, commitment to) dif-
ferentiated instruction, nor do they have a commonly held understanding of
what is meant by “differentiated instruction” or how it relates to improving
student performance. Despite increased accountability for the performance of
student subgroups, there is little understanding of how to address the learning
needs of special populations.
♦ Few students in B C P S S currently have access to additional learning opportunities
that extend beyond what occurs within the school day.
Through the spring of 2004, the central office did not have a system for coor-
dinating or distributing extended learning partnerships that support student
academic learning. The net result is that school principals and A A O s report
scrounging for programs on their own, piecing together services and supports
“under the radar.” Furthermore, students who require additional learning
opportunities beyond the regular school year can rarely access the level of
opportunities that would make a substantial difference.
The three reviews, combined with ongoing discussions with C E O Copeland and
her emerging staff, as well as the Fund for Educational Excellence, point to sev-
eral sets of recommendations.
♦ Create an effective system.
1. Develop more efficient and capable structures at central office.
The district needs a new set of central office structures and strategies to facilitate
informed and accountable planning. It is critical to:
• Establish a C E O s implementation team, composed of core central office staff
and A A O s, charged with building the district’s and schools’ capacity to improve
instruction and to coordinate the delivery of services from external partners.
• Hire a K–12 director of literacy and a K–12 director of mathematics to help the
district and schools define the important learning outcomes for students and
the professional development priorities for the 2004–2005 academic year (and
each year thereafter).
• Redefine the roles and responsibilities of the offices of Curriculum and Instruc-
tion and Professional Development.
• Reorganize A A O s so that each Area has a coherent curriculum focus (especially
in literacy and mathematics), clear performance targets tied to specific school
data, and equitable resources to achieve those outcomes.
2. Become accountable.
• Collaborate with the Maryland State Department of Education to develop a
clear and detailed portrait of student performance in Baltimore, with particular
attention to the needs of currently low-performing students.
• Create clear performance targets for each school (using the terms of the V S C ,
samples of student work, etc.) and the means to collect, analyze, and report
data related to these targets. Formative and diagnostic assessments must also
be an integral part of the support for reaching performance targets.
• Develop effective strategies for generating and sharing performance data with
Academic Areas and individual schools in ways that are useful to classroom
teachers and that support continuous improvement.
• Establish clear job descriptions and performance criteria for all instructional
employees, including central office staff, principals, teachers, and coaches.
3. Rebuild commitment.
• Convene a diverse group of leaders, family members, and students to discuss
what the community seeks from the schools.
• Create a calendar of public meetings to inform the public about the progress
towards realizing the terms of the strategic plan and the community goals.
• Actively engage the city’s press in understanding the issues and in reporting
success as well as difficulty.
4. Create a coordinated improvement effort.
At the moment, B C P SS serves many masters, including the state, the mayor’s
office, local funders, and teacher unions. It is important to coordinate the many
visions about what the district should be doing. One approach is to create a uni-
fied partners’ advisory, including public officials, major funders, and community
leaders, that meets regularly to create a shared and prioritized list of goals for
the district. The purpose of this advisory is to meet regularly to ensure that the
district is answering to a coordinated set of expectations and benchmarks for
♦ Redesign professional development.
• Outline a yearlong plan for the available professional development days.
• Develop strategies for making equitable and strategic use of school-level
resources to support the improvement of teaching.
• Conduct an inventory of school-level resources to determine the highest prior-
ity opportunities for freeing up resources, including common planning time,
for school instructional improvement.
• Support the professional development of A A O s.
• Redesign the new teacher induction program to provide more on-the-job sup-
port linked to specific school needs.
• Pilot a coherent approach to training coaches and principals as instructional
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 7
♦ Strengthen teaching and learning
• Reduce the number of different curricula in use.
• Organize professional development around clear and explicit K–12 frameworks
with explicit grade-level expectations.
• Develop common “anchor” units of instruction focused on valued perform-
ances and key concepts in literacy and mathematics to create common and
equitable learning opportunities for students and appropriate professional
development experiences for teachers throughout the system.
• Develop differentiated instructional strategies that permit students of a wide
range of abilities to be taught to high standards in common classrooms. Make
the modeling of these strategies a key part of professional development.
• Develop a plan for ensuring that all students gain access to learning opportuni-
ties outside of the school day. To benefit students, these opportunities must be
aligned with academic outcomes.
Throughout the course of the review process, researchers have regularly shared
their major findings and recommendations with Dr. Copeland, her emerging staff,
and the district’s partners. As a result, numerous initiatives are under way that
address the major recommendations. These initiatives include:
• creating a C E O ’s implementation team to steer the course of improvement;
• hiring directors of literacy and mathematics to focus the work on narrowing
• strengthening the district’s literacy and mathematics curricula during the criti-
cal middle and high school years;
• making better and more equitable use of the available resources for profes-
• continuing the C E O ’s public forums with students and families.
These are promising moves. However, plans are not the same as actions and
promises are a long way from results. B C P SS must hold its current focus on
steady improvement that yields results for students.
Finally, while the district can do much to ensure that the schools improve, it will
take more than good decisions and follow-through from the central office to
make the necessary difference. All partners – the city, the state, the foundations,
community groups, and families – are necessary contributors. The cover on this
report is a schoolchild’s drawing entitled “My Baltimore.” It depicts an entire
bustling city. This is what it will take for the schools to thrive and serve children
Baltimore: A City in Need of Strong Schools
T o many visitors, Baltimore looks like a city on the rise. The bustling hotels
and shops by the Inner Harbor, the new baseball and football stadiums nearby,
and museums and music venues all suggest a vibrant, dynamic city. But there is
more to Baltimore’s story. It is also a city that lost 90,000 manufacturing jobs in
the 1970s and 1980s and that suffers from high unemployment and poverty rates.
Nearly a fourth of the city’s residents, including a third of its children, live in
poverty, and its median family income of $36,134 is just 70 percent of the
To grow into adults who can lead productive, fulfilling lives, Baltimore’s children
need strong schools. Unlike more advantaged young people, whose families and
communities can supply them with the cultural capital that makes for success in
school and life, Baltimore’s poor and working-poor families rely heavily on the
city’s public schools to convey the knowledge and skills their children need to
succeed in higher education and the workforce.
When a city’s economic and cultural base declines, all of its residents, and most
particularly its lower-income residents, are affected. As an older cab driver
explained, “In my day, we went to hear the Baltimore symphony play as much as
once a month – all of us, rich, poor, every kid. I learned to love classical music.
I’m raising my grandchildren, three of them, no jobs here for their parents. When
they hear me listening to the symphony on the radio, they call out ‘Granddaddy’s
sweet music.’ Not a one of them has ever been [to the symphony]. Same as hap-
pened to the city, happened to the schools.”
In the last two generations, Baltimore’s public schools have faced severe chal-
lenges – many of the same challenges faced by urban centers throughout the
nation: declining enrollment from middle- and working-class families; a loss of
experienced principals and teachers to wealthier suburban districts; a growing
population of students with special learning and linguistic needs. Like other
cities, Baltimore has also faced the challenge of meeting sharply rising standards.
In the 1990s, the state of Maryland set very high expectations for every student
and put in place a challenging set of performance assessments to measure school
progress. And, beginning in 2002, the federal No Child Left Behind Act (N C L B )
set the expectation that by 2014 all students will be performing at proficient lev-
els in mathematics and reading.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 9
Some urban districts – Boston, San Diego, New York, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg,
among others – have made substantial (if not yet sufficient) headway in meeting
these steeply higher standards amid the challenges urban centers face. They have
done so by developing highly skilled central offices, attracting and retaining a
well-trained teacher corps, and establishing cultures that feature both external
and internal accountability. There is keen attention in these districts to meeting
the expectations of N C LB and state accountability systems. But beyond that, these
systems have set for themselves high expectations for the performance of adults:
central office staff, principals, coaches, and classroom teachers. Furthermore,
these districts have established a coherent program of continuous improvement
in which they ask local partners, as well as local and national foundations, to
contribute to the success of students and schools. Other cities, like Chicago,
Chattanooga, and Birmingham, meanwhile, are looking outside the traditional
boundaries of the school system to find learning resources for young people.
These cities are attempting to support the growth of mixed-income, mixed-race
communities in place of the rampant “lofting” of historic downtown neighbor-
hoods. In these cities, the rejuvenation of public schools is a major strategy, with
quality education and the extended learning opportunities of downtown drawing
a wide range of urban families together.
With its stores and cultural attractions, Baltimore can become a tourist destina-
tion; with its condominiums, it can become a bedroom community for middle-
class property owners priced out of Washington. But it cannot become a thriving
city without strong schools.
To improve the schools, the district – and those who want to see it improve –
must begin by taking stock of the realities of the current situation, chiefly the
sobering facts about student achievement.
The Current State of Student Achievement in Baltimore
In some respects, the Baltimore City Public School System (B C P S S ) is similar to
the city school systems mentioned above that have made strides in improving
teaching and learning. B C P SS has benefited from a strong state framework, sup-
port from the state department of education, and investment from local founda-
tions and universities. Significantly, the state of Maryland intervened in the late
1990s, creating a joint state-city governance arrangement for the schools and sub-
stantially increasing funding for the district.
These efforts have demonstrated some payoff: there was some improvement in
student achievement in the early 2000s and significant growth in both mathemat-
ics and literacy in 2004. About half of the city’s third-graders performed at the
proficient level in reading and mathematics in 2004 on the Maryland School
Assessment (M S A ) tests, up from less than 40 percent the year before (Figure B1).
And 55 of the 586 schools acknowledged by the Maryland State Department of
Education (M S D E ) as making substantial improvement are located in Baltimore
City. But there is still much to be done, particularly with regard to the number of
students achieving at the proficient and advanced levels.
Figure B1: Comparison of Performance by Baltimore Students in 2003 and 2004
GRADE YEAR ADVANCED PROFICIENT BASIC
3 2004 3.2 51.4 45.4
2003 1.5 37.6 60.9
change 1.7 13.8 -15.5
5 2004 9.7 40.2 50.1
GRADE 3 GRADE 5 GRADE 8 GRADE 10 2003 7.3 37.1 55.6
change 2.4 3.1 -5.5
8 2004 5.6 36.8 57.6
2003 6.5 26.3 67.2
change -0.9 10.5 -9.6
Proficient 10 2004 8.6 26.9 64.6
Basic 2003 8.3 20.3 71.5
change 0.3 6.6 -6.9
9 GRADE YEAR ADVANCED PROFICIENT BASIC
3 2004 6.3 47.9 45.7
2003 2.5 39.4 58.1
3 change 3.8 8.5 -12.4
5 2004 2.6 41.2 56.3
2003 1.0 30.3 68.8
GRADE 3 GRADE 5 GRADE 8 GRADE 10
-3 change 1.6 10.9 -12.5
8 2004 3.0 16.0 81.1
-6 2003 1.7 9.8 88.5
change 1.3 6.2 -7.4
GEOM. 2004 1.7 12.3 85.9
-12 2003 1.3 12.5 86.2
change 0.4 -0.2 -0.3
NOTE: The graphs represent the figures for percentage change from the NOTE: Yellow shading indicates where student
tables at the right. scores have improved by ten or more points; red
shading indicates where scores declined.
While the city results on the 2004 administration of the M SA are impressive, they
are uneven. Although some schools are doing well, many others languish, and
fifty schools remain on the state “watch list.” Moreover, the results are not as
strong in the upper grades, and the district is far from where it needs to be to
meet the challenge of ensuring proficiency for all students in a decade.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 11
In the course of this work, the Figure B2 illustrates some of the patterns of achievement and their effects on high
researchers had the occasion to school students. The chart compares indicators of “high school persistence” –
work with Baltimore’s student data
and to talk with individuals who use
that is, factors that are associated with student engagement and educational
or need to use that data. Appendix attainment – for citywide academic high schools and all other Baltimore high
3 contains a set of recommendations schools. The data show vividly that the school system is unable to adequately
for using data as an ongoing plan-
prepare a new generation of parents, citizens, and employees. 1 It also exemplifies
ning tool in the district.
the two Baltimores. The system is doing well for some, but it is far from doing
well for all. Urban high schools typically graduate approximately 60 percent of
their students – Baltimore’s comprehensive schools fall beneath even that sober-
Figure B2: High School Persistence Indicators
*CITYWIDE ALL OTHERS
ABSENT MORE THAN 20% 2003 ACADEMIC
Absent more 8.53 18.73
ABSENT LESS THAN 5% than 20%
Absent less than 5% 43.32 29.23
ATTENDANCE RATE Attendance rate 93.47 78.26
UMD course 74.05 36.96
UMD COURSE REQUIREMENT % requirement %
Four-year College % 60.92 22.47
FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE % Two-year College % 14.47 15.60
Diploma % 100.00 71.01
TWO-YEAR COLLEGE % Graduation rate 94.53 49.29
Source: Maryland State Department of Education
DIPLOMA % * This indicator refers only to students who
graduate; it does not include students who leave
GRADUATION RATE the system, drop out, etc.
0 20 40 60 80 100
The Current State of the School System: A Climate of Crisis
Unlike cities that have begun to make significant headway in their improvement
efforts, B C P SS is not currently structured to lead and support all schools to reach
high levels of performance. The district has a long history of crises in manage-
ment and performance. While there has been some recent progress, the extraordi-
nary budget shortfall, the need to restructure the central office, and the ongoing
tensions surrounding the oversight of a struggling system have preoccupied the
district and the public. However, as the data reported above make clear, the qual-
ity of teaching and learning has to become the central focus of B C P SS and its
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, signs of progress began to show in B C P S S ’s his-
tory – some would even say habit – of fiscal, management, and achievement
struggles. There was evidence of some improvement in student achievement,
along with the will to organize the district’s human and fiscal resources to support
that achievement (e.g., rising student scores on the Maryland assessments, the
creation of the C E O ’s District to concentrate on improving the lowest-achieving
schools). In 2002–2003, the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners appointed
a new chief executive officer, Bonnie Copeland, the former executive director of
the Fund for Educational Excellence, Baltimore’s local education fund, first as
interim and, later, as a fully appointed C E O .
In her first year, Copeland and her team had to deal with the consequences of
prior mismanagement, including:
• a new (or at least newly acknowledged) fiscal crisis that resulted in a nearly
$60-million budget shortfall;
• growing evidence of poor staffing and mismanagement, which contributed to
the fiscal problems;
• the negotiation of a loan from the city to stem the shortfall and the attendant
scrutiny and oversight such financial dependence brings;
• implementation of further payroll reductions to curb the urgent fiscal crisis;
• an ongoing court case about adequate funding of the city’s schools;
• tensions among the district, the city, and the state surrounding the oversight of
the system; and
• the need to respond to an angry community that had felt ignored for years
under past administrations.
These challenges occurred amid stronger calls for accountability from the federal
and state levels. Enacted in 2002, N C LB requires schools to demonstrate “ade-
quate yearly progress” (AY P ) toward proficiency in reading and mathematics and
establishes consequences for failing to show AY P . M S D E , meanwhile, developed a
new Voluntary State Curriculum (V S C ) in an effort to align teaching and learning
across the state with federal accountability goals. Beginning in 2003, the state
administered new assessments annually to gauge whether schools and districts
make AY P .
In a further sign of discontent with the management of the B C P S S , the Maryland
State Board of Education rejected the district’s “master plan,” which the district is
required to develop under the city-state partnership governing B C P SS in order to
access major federal and state resources for public education. The district was
required to implement a set of “corrective actions,” a series of mandated strate-
gies for improvement, and to undergo two external audits – one focused on the
district’s use of its professional development resources, and one focused on the
alignment between the V S C and the district curriculum.
As a result of all of these factors, the district in late 2003 and early 2004 was cop-
ing with a range of substantial financial, organizational, and academic crises that
threatened to undermine the system. These included:
• the rumored loss of qualified teachers, principals, support staff, and other
skilled educators to surrounding communities or early retirement;
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 13
• the loss of large numbers of novice teachers hesitant to stake their careers on a
• federal allegations of ongoing irregularities in Title I spending;
• the state’s rejection of the district’s master plans for spending federal and state
• testimony in court hearings over funding adequacy that fed tensions with the
city and the state;
• poor oversight of graduation requirements at one of the city’s high schools;
• increasingly hostile press coverage; and
• a growing loss of confidence by funders, families, and community members.
The Potential for Improvement
Despite the severity of the situation, the district possesses some important inter-
nal and external strengths that can help B C P S S weather the crises and begin to
move forward. These include:
• a C EO – Bonnie Copeland – with a long history in the district and the ability
make difficult decisions, such as major cuts in the district payroll;
• an experienced and knowledgeable board of education with four new members,
bringing wider community participation;
• high levels of expenditures available for staff professional development com-
pared to other urban districts;
• a state department of education with the capacity to assist the district, coupled
with the political will to reverse the effects of prior mismanagement;
• a state-level fiscal commitment to adequate funding for public education (the
Thornton Amendment); and
• a respected and well-established public education fund 2 with a history of work-
ing collaboratively with the district on matters of instructional improvement.
Evidence from the 2004 school year suggests that, in some important respects,
B C P SS has in fact begun to show progress:
• B C P SS secured a loan from the city and has developed an aggressive plan for
• The C EO has made important reductions in spending – including the reduction
of an outsized central office staff – while ensuring that the
district has an operating budget for at least half of fiscal year 2005.
• Student and school performance has improved, according to spring 2004 test
2 • The loss of teachers and principals was not as severe as some critics had
The Fund for Educational Excel-
lence, the public education fund for predicted.
the district, provides a number of
coordinating and school-reform These positive signs point to the p o t e n t i a l for steady improvement in the quality
supports. of public education offered by B C P SS; however, this potential is a fragile one. Sus-
tained and continuous improvement demands that very bold and specific actions
begin immediately to correct systemic problems that still exist. These problems
may well have roots in earlier appointments and practices, but they require
immediate action nonetheless. The board of education and C E O , therefore, have a
choice – they can continue to react to various crises as they emerge, risking fur-
ther sanctions and loss of confidence, or they can adopt proactive strategies for
holding themselves accountable for improving the quality of public education at
B C P SS.
Blueprints for Accountable Improvement: The Professional
Development and Curriculum Reviews
In July 2003, Nancy Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, laid
out the corrective actions that B C P S S must take to improve its operations and
performance, and the state board approved her plan. Central to the recommenda-
tions were two external audits: one focused on curriculum and the second
focused on the district’s approach to professional development.
In 2003–2004, external reviews were conducted by two independent
• Researchers from Educational Resource Strategies (E R S ) examined how the
district utilizes its professional development resources.
• Researchers from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (A I S R ) examined
the alignment of the district’s curriculum to the V S C and the quality of the dis-
trict’s curricula in literacy and mathematics as delivered in classrooms.
The reviews were made possible with generous financial support from the John
D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to the Fund for Educational Excel-
lence. The support allowed collaboration between the outside organizations, the
Fund, and the district leadership in conducting these reviews. To ensure that
such collaboration took place, a Steering Committee, composed of central office
leaders, selected Area Academic Officers, state department of education officials,
funders, and the two review teams, met regularly to review data and discuss
emerging findings. The effort aimed to keep a group of education leaders talking
about improving instruction and to build an objective baseline of information
about current practice that leaders could use to prioritize its redesign and
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 15
Introduction to the Three-Part Study
A s part of the corrective action for the Baltimore City Public School System
(B C P S S ), two audits were conducted: an examination of the funding and use
of B C P S S ’s professional development resources and an examination of the align-
ment between the Voluntary State Curriculum and the B C P SS curricula. With
funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Fund for Excellence in Education
commissioned Education Resource Strategies to conduct the audit of professional
development spending. The Fund commissioned the Annenberg Institute for
School Reform to conduct the curriculum audit.
The researchers in each of these organizations recognized that what was required
went beyond an audit, in the sense of a strict accounting for the responsible use
of public resources. Thus, each team:
• collected data from multiple sources to analyze the consequences of current
• formulated detailed recommendations based on successful practices in improv-
ing urban districts; and
• worked closely with a Baltimore-based Steering Committee to ensure that
the recommendations could be translated into action by the district and its
To reflect this expanded concept, the broader term review is used throughout this
report to refer to the audits.
Given the scope of the work, both review teams determined it was vital to inte-
grate their investigations and findings to form a concise picture of how stated
policies are translated at the district, school, and classroom level. Thus, both
reviews were designed to produce blueprints for immediate, feasible actions lead-
ing to “accountable improvement” in professional development, and well as in
teaching and learning.
The integrated report contains three major sections. The first section addresses
the district infrastructure and its capacity to use information and data to make
decisions and communicate effectively with its partners and public. These issues
were not included in the specific request for the audits, but the teams found that
they fuel the current difficulties in professional development and curriculum. The
second section, the professional development strategy and spending review, is
based on an analysis of budgets and on interviews with individuals who both
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 17
design and participate in the district’s programs for teachers and administrators.
The final section, the curriculum review, describes a side-by-side examination of
the emerging district curriculum and the state’s new voluntary curriculum docu-
ments. In addition, to determine whether that intended curriculum was actually
reaching students, a team of four researchers spent nearly fifty days observing
classes, interviewing staff and students, and examining assignments drawn from
schools across the district.
Each of these sections presents a primary finding, the framework that led to that
finding, a set of major findings, and recommendations for immediate and longer-
A Review of the Underlying Issues in the
Baltimore City Public School System
T he Baltimore City Public School System review begins by discussing a set of
underlying conditions – the district’s infrastructure and its communication,
both internal and external – that affect the district’s ability to improve its profes-
sional development, curriculum, and, ultimately, student outcomes. The recom-
mendations in this section represent the foundation necessary for implementing
the recommendations of the professional development and curriculum reviews
The reviewers interviewed key personnel at all levels, examined a wide range of
state and district documents and data, and monitored press reports to explore
how the district could best:
• build its capacity to effectively support schools;
• use data to improve accountability and make better decisions; and
• communicate more effectively to build public commitment to Baltimore’s pub-
The section concludes with a recommendation to all partners at all levels to
develop a common set of goals to focus the work.
The system struggles with a weak infrastructure, little use of
knowledge and data, and poor communication.
In order to improve results for its students, B C P SS needs to become a capable and
accountable system with the ability to build commitment from the public it
serves. In the last year, the C EO, Bonnie Copeland, has taken steps toward creat-
ing a leaner, more skilled, and more accountable central office. However, the cur-
rent infrastructure continues to impede the district’s capability: it is still charac-
terized by variable expertise, work that occurs in uncoordinated silos, and a lack
of clear lines of accountability and benchmarks for steady improvement in the
performance of educators.
In addition, despite the considerable data resources and expertise of the Maryland
State Department of Education, as well as the increased federal demand for rigor-
ous evidence of progress, B C P SS is not currently an accountable system. There is
little effective use of data for planning, for using resources in effective and effi-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 19
cient ways, or for supervision and performance reviews. Furthermore, at present
B C P SS is not a system that communicates effectively with its public. In the
firestorm of fiscal crisis, court cases, and restructuring, the district has not had
(or taken) the time to use data to engage the public, acknowledge successes,
develop shared goals, or forge coalitions around supporting schools and students.
Finally, the district now serves many masters: the federal government, via the
requirements of No Child Left Behind; the state department of education, through
corrective action; the city, through loan agreements; foundations that lend much-
needed support; taxpayers concerned about “the black hole” of funding for failing
schools; and the children and families the district serves. Currently, district lead-
ership is darting between demands rather than participating in a coordinated and
prioritized discussion with its constituents and those who provide funding and
support. The commitment is not there.
All of these issues – the infrastructure, the use of data, the communication with
stakeholders – must be addressed if the specific review recommendations regard-
ing professional development and curriculum are to take root and yield substan-
A Capable System: Structure and Support for Schools
In the course of interviewing educators at the school, Area, district, and state lev-
els, the review teams probed whether B C P S S was organized to support schools
effectively and provide needed guidance and assistance to teachers and school
leaders. Major findings include:
♦ B C P S S tends to place more emphasis on compliance than on partnership and
The Framework for the Review of Underlying Issues
In the process of conducting their work, human resources, student achieve- vide one indicator of the character of
the two review teams: ment data) to develop a picture of the civic discussion regarding public edu-
• interviewed key personnel at the district’s current performance (per- cation (journalistic accounts can be
school, district, and state levels about formance indicators were chosen to biased or incomplete, but the content
their current work and the challenges measure both the effectiveness of the and tenor of the daily press is what
they faced; district’s processes and the quality the city’s families and taxpayers
• conducted an extensive review of of a wide variety of student outcomes, read);
available documentation, including including, but going beyond, • tracked other key forms of communi-
curriculum materials, personnel docu- standardized-test scores); cations from the district offices –
ments, guidelines, assessments, and • discussed emerging findings with the field notes, transcripts, and other
academic standards; Steering Committee, which was con- documents – for major themes that
• examined state and district data vened for the review process; emerged across interviewees and
sources (e.g., budgets, reports on • monitored local and national press sources.
reports about the district, which pro-
According to principals and Area Academic Officers (A A O s), the district central
office is mainly concerned with compliance with district rules, rather than
improvement in teaching and learning. Area staff felt that the central office’s
potential effects on instructional practice were rendered ineffective by poor com-
munication, a lack of alignment between central office goals and the organiza-
tional realities of schools, the unmet professional development needs of teachers,
and a lack of data for instructional improvement.
The interviews revealed a widespread perception that, historically, tools developed
by the central office for use in the schools – particularly curriculum guides –
have been “disconnected,” “lacking in alignment” with state and national stan-
dards, and unrealistic in their pacing for content coverage. Some interviewees
noted that the curriculum materials developed by the office of curriculum and
instruction differed “philosophically” from the curriculum-in-use in the schools,
therefore sending mixed messages to teachers.
Principals and Area officers also cited a lack of coordination within the central
office that impedes effective support. A A O s provided the example of the frequent
disconnect between the special education office and the curriculum and instruc-
tion office; they believe that shared responsibility for I E P development and revi-
sion would be more effective. They made similar points with regard to manage-
ment of resources, timelines, and the use of data to drive instruction.
Several A A O s complained of a lack of a systemic approach and/or theory govern-
ing professional development, indicating that the central office could benefit from
greater communication with Areas and schools to align central office goals with
the professional development needs of the schools.
The sense among many individuals working in schools is that the central office
would be more effective if it took on a “partnership” or “supporting” role, rather
than a hierarchical one, with respect to the schools. In the view of several inter-
viewees, the central office traditionally has simply mandated improvement, with-
out providing schools with the support they need to improve. Many A A O s sug-
gested that the district office ought to establish a structure of support to schools,
using the A A O s as resources for instructional improvement.
♦ Currently, the Academic Areas cannot function as nimble and differentiated units
for supporting schools.
The Academic Areas were, at one time, a way of grouping schools by level (high,
middle, and elementary schools) and, further, grouping elementary schools by a
combination of achievement levels and similar curricula. They were to be smaller,
nimbler, and more differentiated in their support of schools than a single, “down-
town” central office could be. Thus, the C E O ’s District was created to provide
concentrated support for the lowest-performing elementary schools.
However, as currently configured, the Areas do not function as envisioned. A A O s
vary widely in their degrees of managerial skill and instructional knowledge.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 21
Partly because of this variation, the Areas have developed dramatically different
profiles of resources, with the C E O ’s District far outdistancing any other Area (see
data presented in the professional development review). Yet there is no evidence
that these profiles of resources match the diverse needs of the particular children,
communities and teachers they serve.
♦ The district allows schools to employ a patchwork of varied curricular programs,
diversely implemented, without attempting to achieve coherence.
Schools employ a wide range of curricular programs, depending on the training
and beliefs of their leadership and staff. Areas, in turn, possess a wide range of
curriculum materials intended to be aligned to the instructional “philosophies”
inherent in the different programs. Some of the highly structured curriculum
materials showed some indications of effectiveness in developing basic skills,
but offered many fewer opportunities for teachers to develop their own content
knowledge and expertise with students.
In many cases, the materials developed by the Curriculum and Instruction office
are not aligned with the outcome goals inherent in the schools’ curricular pro-
grams used in the Areas. This produces confusion among teachers, who are
unsure how to balance their instruction among competing demands from the
state, the district, their textbooks, and their own training. Schools have
responded to gaps in their materials with a range of supplemental programs.
While there is evidence that some skilled and energetic teachers have developed
curriculum materials on their own, many use commercially published teacher
activity books that are not aligned with district standards.
Many A A O s suggested that teachers “teach the curriculum” rather than teaching
students, and have little to fall back on when that curriculum does not produce
the intended improvements in student learning. A A O s indicated a strong desire
for teachers to understand that curriculum materials, textbooks, and the like are
merely resources or tools to guide instruction. A A O s were concerned that many
teachers lacked the ability to articulate a theory or understanding of “good
instruction.” In particular, A A O s and others rated the quality of mathematics
instruction as “very poor.” At the higher grades, a wide range of variability was
present in the design, intellectual rigor, and delivery of subject-specific courses of
instruction. Several A A O s indicated a desire to foster greater collegiality and
cooperation among veteran teachers and novices, and most seemed frustrated
with the veterans’ general resistance to observation or to having their practice cri-
tiqued by peers. A A O s also indicated a desire for a specific framework for defin-
ing instruction, observing and monitoring classroom practice, and using student
work as a critical piece of data for measuring instructional quality.
♦ The development of school-level leaders is weak throughout B C P S S .
The A A O s subscribe to the view that school culture is related to leadership and
that both are linked to student achievement. Yet they describe the majority of Bal-
timore principals, even the most well-intentioned ones, as products of a compli-
ance-based model of leadership that focuses more on operational tasks than on
instructional leadership. In the words of one A A O , principals are “trained as man-
agers, not instructional leaders.” The presence of district-selected instructional
support/content teachers has had the unintentional effect of removing principals
even further from instructional responsibilities. The consequence is that while
A A O s can rely on most of their principals to maintain safe, orderly environments,
principals are less effective as levers for instructional change. And A A O s sug-
gested that they have little ability to remedy the situation; they report that they
lack the time to monitor, problem-solve, or engage with principals effectively.
A A O s emphasized the need for professional development for principals, with a
focus on how leadership can build the capacity of individual teachers through
collaboration rather than oversight.
During site visits to schools, principals themselves spoke repeatedly of wanting
additional support in becoming instructional leaders. But unfortunately, as of
August 2004, the district has now cut its major program for principal training.
♦ Available supports for improving teaching and learning are not used well. This is
particularly true for support/content teachers and coaches – both major investments
of district resources.
AAOs and others interviewed expressed appreciation for instructional support/
content teachers that the district appointed to lead efforts to improve teaching
and learning in their schools. They identified instances in which these teachers
shared practices and involved other teachers with instructional improvement. In
these cases, the instructional support teachers serve to bridge the communication
gaps between central office, the Areas, and teachers in their daily instructional
practice. They are effective in fostering alignment among the state standards and
the Voluntary State Curriculum (V S C ), the textbooks, and the inherited practices
of many Baltimore teachers.
But two intervening factors limit the effectiveness of these teachers. First, there is
no clear job description or specific professional development, so the effectiveness
of teachers in this role appears to depend largely on individual effort, skills, and
knowledge. Second, as A A O s and other interviewees pointed out, these teachers
are used differently across schools. Some principals differentiate the role by stu-
dent population – “general education coaches” or “special education coaches”. In
some elementary schools, instructional support/content teachers assess students’
reading levels, while in some high schools, these teachers double as department
heads. Unfortunately, in many instances the role appears to be that of an “extra
body” in the mold of a middle manager.
AAOs and others identified similar issues with the district’s substantial investment
in academic coaching. Many acknowledged that they have observed instances of
skilled intervention and support by individual coaches. Repeatedly, however,
interviewees pointed out that there is no system for skilled coaching. There is no
clear job description or hiring process. Thus, individuals tend to be hired chiefly
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 23
on their own teaching records and reputations. Interviewees report that the cur-
rent coaching staff does not reflect the racial, cultural, or economic diversity of
the teaching corps or the students, a fact that stresses the already sensitive issues
surrounding entry, observation, and intervention. There is also little professional
development, supervision, or accountability for individual coaches. Coaches are
charged with improving instruction – but are not trained in the process, content,
or evidence gathering that should be a part of that practice. Thus, coaching, as it
actually plays out in schools, is a matter of highly individualized practice between
willing partners – not an evidence-based or accountable system of supports for
improvement. (Appendix 12 contains a number of documents that address the
issue of how the district might better use support teachers and coaches.)
♦ The Curriculum and Instruction division of the state department of education is a
knowledgeable and willing partner for the district.
The state department of education is lean and, thus, cannot offer extended, on-
site support, given its many other demands. However, the staff is highly skilled
and willing to provide targeted assistance. For instance, staff members regularly
attended the Steering Committee meetings and supported the researchers’ access
to state-level data. The current court case regarding resources is generating unfor-
tunate tensions, which could damage a potentially highly productive working
relationship between a restructured central office and a skilled state department
♦ B C P S S appears to approach external support as additions to its program, not an
integral part of the program.
A theme running throughout the reviews of the district master plan was that each
individual part (e.g., technology, special education) was designed independently
of other portions of the system. As a result, reviewers (other Maryland educators
and state department staff) saw silos of effort, a lack of synergy, and a tendency to
add, rather than to improve, programs or staff performance.
♦ B C P S S lacks a well-structured central office and a coordinated team of consultants
capable of supporting high-quality teaching and learning.
As of June 2004, there was not yet a full team of individuals in central office and
the Academic Areas who could ensure clear expectations for student achieve-
ment, a well-articulated curriculum, a clearly specified model for coaching, or
classroom and school-level accountability for the improvement of equity and
results. The current structure does not contain positions – or the resulting capac-
ity – to address key curricular areas where major improvement is needed, such as
literacy or mathematics.
Nor is there a coordinated plan for the use of external consultants that would
ensure both the immediately needed expertise and the will to build local capacity
steadily. Building the local infrastructure and necessary external supports must be
An Accountable System: Data and Decision Making
Based on the sources outlined above, it is clear that the district faces a second,
and equally fundamental, issue – that of becoming an accountable system, in
which decision making is rooted in evidence, professional accountability for
improvement is built in, and information is used by the district to construct a
continuing dialogue with the public it serves. Major findings include:
♦ At both the central and Area offices it is often difficult to obtain data that is vital
to effective planning, accountability, or program evaluation.
One striking data gap is in special education. Although Areas with a large number
of special education students mentioned specific support mechanisms to address
the needs of these students, the reviewers were unable to ascertain whether the
instructional experiences those students receive are the same as those of their
non-disabled peers – and rigorous enough to meet the state’s challenging aca-
demic standards. Identification and placement data for special education popula-
tions were not easily available. There appears to be no – or only a very rudimen-
tary – system for tracking how many students are successfully mainstreamed back
into the regular student population over time, and at what grade levels. The
absence or inaccessibility of this data demonstrates the system’s tendency to “go
along” without gathering relevant data, reflecting on it, and making deliberate
decisions about strategies and the use of resources.
♦ At present, the staff at central office, the A A O s, and schools rely chiefly on
lagging indicators such as student test scores that arrive too late for intervention
and provide little information about the causes for performance.
There is little observable evidence of the collaborative use of the excellent
resources at the Maryland State Department of Education or of district-level data
that could help build predictions about worthwhile investments (e.g., which spe-
cific investments in principals or new teachers pay off). Further, there is little
time or funding devoted to the analysis of leading indicators such as teacher qual-
ity or opportunity to learn. As a result, resources cannot be accurately focused on
the interventions that make the most difference.
♦ At the Area office and school level, there is little evidence of program evaluation.
The reviewers could not find evidence of program evaluation by school and Area
leadership. This is true for in-school instructional programs, such as the Fund for
Educational Excellence’s Achievement First; for supplemental programs, such as
after-school education; and for summer programs, which one A A O deemed “inef-
fective.” As a result, school leaders and A A O s report that they have very little to
go on in making judgments about program quality, other than the standardized-
test scores they receive from the state. Few individuals interviewed were making
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 25
♦ The district has made an uneven investment in formative assessment at both the
student and system level.
Most A A O s and principals indicated a desire for school-based, curriculum-embed-
ded assessment (especially in mathematics) to guide teacher and student learning
alike. They pointed to the recent use of quarterly assessments as a promising
approach, but differed about the quality and implementation of these assess-
ments. Some A A O s have developed or use monitoring tools to assist them in
tracking the pace of instruction against the V S C , but few indicated that they have
powerful tools for assessing the rigor of instruction – whether teachers are consis-
tently assigning challenging tasks to their students and to what extent students
are having success or require additional supports.
♦ At all levels of the system, Baltimore educators indicated a need for more thor-
ough and timely data collection and analysis, especially diagnostic tools that could
help teachers identify the knowledge and skills their students might be lacking, and
for their own (teachers’) learning needs.
Educators at all levels report difficulty in obtaining timely and useful informa-
tion, even of the most basic – and vital – kind. For example, at the high school
level, schools do not use data to make decisions about which students should
take which courses; one staff member estimates that, as a consequence, as many
as 30 percent of high school seniors will not graduate simply because they do not
have enough credits. (The recent example of incorrectly awarded diplomas at a
city vocational high school is an extreme example of what can occur due to this
lack of data and a lack of oversight through data.)
Area officers specifically indicated that the central office does not support them in
data use or provide technical assistance; as a consequence, Areas have differing
capacities and understanding of how data can be used effectively. Areas that have
adopted more structured curriculum programs have a higher capacity for the use
of data, because such programs contain embedded diagnostic and placement
tools. Because of the variability in curriculum programs, Areas lack the means to
“roll up” data at the grade, school, or Area level for the purpose of making
regional decisions with regard to instruction, placement of students, and staff
Given the lack of information and data use, there are no strategies for sharing
information with schools and Academic Areas and no clear performance targets
for each Area and school.
Building Public Commitment: Communication
A review of press coverage of the district and key forms of communication looked
for ways the district had attempted to build commitment from parents and the
public. Major findings include:
♦ Press coverage of B C P S S has shifted from initially supportive to increasingly
At the outset of the Copeland administration, Baltimore journalists registered
shock at the rising deficit and clear evidence of mismanagement. However, writ-
ers were basically supportive of the difficult decisions mandated by the fiscal cri-
sis. As additional instances of perceived mismanagement have arisen (e.g., the
canceling of summer school, the misuse of Title I funds, the problem with diplo-
mas at a vocational high school), news accounts described these incidents –
rightly or wrongly – as emanating from the new administration and signaling the
“same old story.” In this climate, the evidence of turnaround, such as the very
substantial gains in student achievement, or the highly responsible plan to repay
the city loan, tend to get lost. The danger is an unbalanced, rancorous account
that eats away at the possibility for recovery and rebuilding.
♦ Recent public forums to address key issues have proven to be an effective and
informative communication strategy.
In the last year, the C EO and, on occasion, the mayor, have convened small dis-
cussions to address critical issues (e.g., meetings with families and students to
discuss what they seek from the district, meetings with teachers to discuss job
security). These forums are reported to have been effective – for instance, in con-
vincing experienced teachers to stay with the district rather than leaving for Balti-
more County schools. They have also provided occasions for public collaboration
between the schools and the mayor’s office.
Recommendations for Improving Capability,
Accountability, and Commitment
The findings from the two reviews, combined with ongoing discussions with
Superintendent Copeland and her emerging staff, the Fund for Educational Excel-
lence, and the Steering Committee, point to several major recommendations in
addition to those specific to professional development and the curriculum.
CREATING A CAPABLE SYSTEM
The district needs a new set of central office structures and strategies to facilitate
informed and accountable planning. Toward those ends, B C P S S should:
♦ Establish a C E O ’s implementation team.
The team would be composed of core central office staff and A A O s, charged with
building the district’s and schools’ capacity to improve instruction and to coordi-
nate the delivery of service from external partners.
♦ Hire a K–12 director of literacy and a K–12 director of mathematics.
These individuals will supervise and help with the development and ongoing
refinement of the district’s instructional model; connect effective, aligned curric-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 27
ula to the model; and support targeted professional development in the content
♦ Redefine the roles and responsibilities of the offices of Curriculum and Instruction
and Professional Development.
The emphasis here is on reciprocal accountability; these central office structures
ought to function as partners with schools in the school-improvement process
and be able to respond dynamically to the needs of schools, such as developing
new recruitment and induction programs, aligning curriculum materials and
related professional development, assisting in the collection and interpretation of
data, and monitoring and evaluating programs. The offices themselves should
also be monitored annually for effectiveness, with direct links, where possible,
between their activities and student outcomes.
♦ Reorganize Area Academic Offices.
The Areas should include an Office of High Schools, an Office of Middle Schools,
and a reduced number of Elementary School Offices. Each of these units must
have a clear instructional focus, an officer capable of and accountable for leading
instructional improvement, and staff with the capacity to support principals and
teachers. There must be coherence across the Areas in their approaches to literacy
and mathematics, and clear targets for improvement should be set. The A A O s
have to be able both to expect and to support substantially new practices –
accountability for student results, improved instructional practice, and the use of
data to inform instructional choices. At the same time, while the proposed type of
level-based organization buys coherence, it can hinder the development of a clear
K–12 vision, thereby isolating elementary, middle, and high schools from one
another. Hence the Areas must also collaborate on a K–12 vision for instruction,
articulation, and improvement. (See recommendations in the professional devel-
opment and curriculum review sections.)
Creating and staffing these new organizational structures may require new job
descriptions, open applications for existing positions, and an organized effort to
identify new talent among current and retired educators in the city, state, and
nation. While the work may initially include external consultants, the emphasis
in this process must be on building the internal capacity of B C P S S. Sustained
improvement requires on-site investment by individuals who know the commu-
nity they serve.
USING DATA TO BUILD AN ACCOUNTABLE SYSTEM
The district must build information systems – approaches to using data to inform
its decision-making, as well as strategies for using emerging data to inform and
dialogue with the public. To achieve this goal, B C P S S should:
♦ Develop a set of basic information systems for the district. There must be ready
access to current data on feeder patterns, student and teacher mobility, the resources
flowing to individual schools, etc.
♦ Hire a new director for research and accountability with experience in using data
proactively to formulate priorities, make targeted use of resources, and monitor the
effectiveness of investments in personnel and programs.
♦ Collaborate with the Maryland State Department of Education to develop a clear
and detailed portrait of student performance in Baltimore, with particular attention to
the needs of currently low-performing students.
♦ Create clear performance targets for each school using the terms of the V S C ,
samples of student work, etc.
♦ Develop effective strategies for sharing performance data with Academic Areas
and individual schools in ways that support continuous improvement.
Appendix 3 contains a set of recommendations on using data that can inform the
work of the district on this theme, some of which specifically include examples
from Baltimore of how data could be used to communicate and plan with the
Area offices and individual schools.
The Baltimore Board of School Commissioners and the C EO must reestablish a
candid conversation with the public, specifically the students and families whom
they serve, as well as with the city’s taxpayers and the media that portray the
city’s schools to the listening and reading public. To do this they must:
♦ Convene a diverse group of leaders, family members, and students to discuss
what the community seeks from the schools.
The purpose of this process is to refocus public attention on the hopes and needs
of students and families (not the fiscal and administrative habits of the district).
The summit process should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
♦ Create a calendar of public meetings.
The purpose of these meetings would be to inform the public about the progress
towards realizing the terms of the strategic plan and the community goals.
♦ Actively engage the city’s press in understanding the issues and in reporting
success as well as difficulty.
THE NEED FOR A COMMON SET OF BENCHMARKS:
A RECOMMENDATION TO ALL PARTNERS
B C P SScurrently answers to many masters: the federal government, the courts, the
state, and the mayor. The core business of teaching and learning has been at a
near standstill while administrative, fiscal and legal questions have consumed the
district’s attention and resources. In recent months, the district has had to focus
chiefly on answering to these other authorities.
There is a substantial danger that sheer crisis management will become the
modus operandi. If the district is to focus on instructional improvement, the part-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 29
ners must help the district to establish and meet a commonly defined set of
explicit and feasible goals over the next six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four
months. To accomplish this, B C P S S and its partners should:
♦ Convene a blue-ribbon committee to coordinate the work of the district, city, and
state on developing transparent, efficient, and accountable systems for public educa-
tion in Baltimore.
This committee must represent the interests of the state, the city, and the district,
but it must also contain – even be chaired by – individuals who can help the par-
ties make informed decisions and negotiate clear benchmarks for progress.
♦ Develop an integrated review of all outstanding fiscal, management, and legal
problems in the district.
♦ Develop a three-, six-, and nine-month strategic plan to address those outstanding
Professional Development Strategy and Spending Review
of the Baltimore City Public School System
T his review, combined with the curriculum review, aims to jump-start a process
of refining the Baltimore City Public School System’s (B C P S S ) professional
development efforts to create a more strategic, comprehensive system that focuses
investment where it is most likely to improve instructional practice and so
improve student learning. Mapping the current spending and activities aimed at
professional development for teachers and school leaders is the first step toward
articulating a comprehensive and cohesive strategy. To that end, this review
• inventory current professional development activities and spending;
• evaluate activities against a set of research-based professional development
• help build a shared understanding of B C P S S professional development priori-
ties and challenges; and
• support the design of a district professional development strategy.
Resources are available, but could be used better.
While the current financial and performance pressure should cause great concern,
the results of this review give reason for optimism regarding B C P S S ’s prospects for
improvement. The Baltimore community has invested significantly in professional
development compared with other urban districts studied. If these resources can
be strategically marshaled, they could enable the district to provide intensive
instructional support to struggling teachers and schools. However, currently
B C P S S does not allocate these resources strategically or equitably across schools
and among teachers, nor does it support a coherent district strategy for instruc-
B C P SScurrently has several promising professional development models that
improve school performance by focusing efforts around specific content materi-
als. As we will describe more fully, the C E O ’s District model, combined with
Achievement First and the Direct Instruction model, have begun to show some
improved student achievement, as reflected in the recent rise in Maryland School
Assessment scores. A successful professional development strategy should study
and build on the implementation and effectiveness of these models in improving
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 31
In the last year, B C P SS faced significant cuts in personnel and programs as part of
a major effort to return to fiscal responsibility. However, both the professional
development and curriculum reviews revealed pre l i m i n a ry evidence that many of
the schools visited already have significant resources that could be better used to
support and provide instruction. Though B C P S S may eventually need to garn e r
more resources to reach high academic standards for all, the first challenge is to
focus existing resources on improved teaching and learning. In some cases, this will
mean changing the roles that people play. In other cases, it will require BCPSS to
redirect resources away from some important efforts and toward higher priority
Our analysis found that:
♦ B C P S S invests significant resources ($58 million, or approximately 6 percent of its
operating budget) on professional development of teachers, a substantial investment
relative to other districts. But the investment is not structured for maximum effect.
The Framework for the Professional Development Review
This analysis examines district spending ment. In contrast, in this review, we dis- nected with professional development
and activities related to providing the tinguish between “good” professional • administrative costs
professional development and support development and a “good professional • tuition reimbursement for improving
necessary to dramatically improve stu- development strategy.” It is quite possi- the skills of school-based staff and
dent achievement across the district. ble to have high-quality professional others
development that does not promote a
Criteria The numbers presented in this report dif-
strong districtwide strategy. A district
We reviewed spending and activities in fer from BCPSS-reported total spending
that has a strong professional develop-
light of two critical elements: on professional development for a num-
ment strategy allocates scarce resources
• How well does each existing activity ber of important reasons:
to its more important professional devel-
match sound principles for a district- opment priorities in ways most likely to • Spending, as calculated in this report,
level professional development improve instructional practice. Appendix reflects the current 2003–2004 school
strategy? 4, from Miles (2003), describes these year. Even though this decision meant
• How well do the activities fit into a characteristics in more detail. that some of the dollars would still be
district school-improvement strategy unspent, the leadership team felt the
Process and Definitions analysis would be most useful if it
that offers clear expectations for
instruction and provides the support For this analysis, we define professional reflected current budgets.
and supervision necessary to meet development as any and all resources • We used a combination of budget
those expectations? aimed at improving the knowledge and and payroll data to generate the most
skills of staff working in schools. Exam- accurate picture of current spending
These criteria are different from many
ples of types of spending include: possible. Because BCPSS was
other “evaluations” of professional
• time for planning, sharing, and engaged in far-reaching cuts in per-
development. Some evaluations seek to
learning sonnel, we replaced all budget data
understand whether the professional
• staff time for facilitating professional on salaries with the actual current
development offered is “good” profes-
development activities salaried positions (from payroll data)
sional development; to define good,
• external and internal consultants and as of February 2004. By doing this,
these evaluations might use teacher rat-
trainers we reflected the deep cuts in central
ings or schemes that describe character-
office made in November of 2003.
istics of effective professional develop- • materials, equipment, and travel con-
• Investment varies widely across schools and programs in ways that do not
dependably match the varying needs of students, teachers, coaches, principals,
schools, Area Academic Officers, or other recipients.
• The district spends $20 million on teacher salaries for contracted workdays
designated for professional development. There is little guidance and no
accountability for the effective use of this important investment. Meanwhile,
the lack of common planning time for teachers limits the impact of the invest-
ment in professional development.
♦ B C P S S made a substantial investment in coaching as a strategy for improving the
quality of instruction without making the necessary investments in planning, selection,
and training. These resources are not distributed strategically and there is limited
• Coaching resources vary dramatically across schools and in ways that are not
always consistent with the current levels of student performance or teacher
• District data includes spending from BCPSS and other districts make signifi- similarly intensive process of interviews
all funds – federal, state, local, and cant investments in building professional and analysis. The districts of Boston,
private resources. We supplemented capacity in two other areas that we do Cincinnati, Albuquerque, Providence,
this data with additional data from not quantify in this analysis: and Minneapolis are all engaged in sig-
state and private professional devel- • salary increases for teachers who nificant efforts to improve instruction
opment sources to give as broad a earn advanced degrees or additional through professional development.1
view as possible. This is especially college credits; and These districts’ engagement in this kind
important in Baltimore, because the • salary expenses that go toward pro- of review shows that each of them was
state of Maryland provides significant viding teachers with instruction-free actively rethinking the way it invested
technical and financial support for time (sometimes called planning time available resources to improve instruc-
professional development and private or planning and prep periods) during tion. All of the districts provided inten-
donations support much of the reform students’ school day. sive school-level coaching in at least a
efforts, especially at the high school portion of schools.
Calculating these costs requires separate
level. We do not claim that any of these dis-
analyses. The size of investments in
• The categories for spending in this tricts offer a model for others – though
planning periods and salary increases
report may differ from other reports each district has some effective practices
for taking courses make the more direct
because we scrutinized each line item and strategies. Instead, we use the com-
spending on professional development
and position in the budget to under- parisons to get a rough sense of how
we analyze here look small. For exam-
stand the purpose of the spending BCPSS’s levels of spending and strategy
ple, a recent analysis of Boston Public
and determine whether or not it might be different or similar to others.
Schools teacher salaries found that
should be included in the analysis. As (For further description of the methods
nearly 30 percent of all teacher salary
part of this process, district and state used and the comparison districts, see
dollars supported increases in salary
staff helped identify programs and Miles, Odden, Archibald & Fermanich,
levels that came from the accumulation
budgets used for professional devel- forthcoming).
of course credit (Miles, Guiney & Win-
opment activities. Detailed interviews
with many unit and department heads 1
Both Boston and Albuquerque public schools con-
clarified specific line items and helped Where appropriate, we compare ducted this analysis twice – once, early in their efforts,
us estimate the percentage of time BCPSS’s spending levels with those of to rethink their spending and, again, two years later, to
specific staff spent on professional five other districts in which we have reflect on their progress and strategy. These numbers
development. recently collected these data, using a reflect the second analysis. In both cases, the district
actively increased investment in professional develop-
ment organized around their new strategy.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 33
• There has been no consistent effort to develop best practices in the coaching
programs based on data on student achievement or the quality of classroom
♦ B C P S S invests significant resources in teacher induction, but there is no career
development strategy and induction activities do not link to school-level improvement
efforts or priorities.
♦ B C P S S has no comprehensive strategy to develop strong school leaders, despite
significant state-directed spending to support principals in poorly performing
schools. The leadership development strategy should be expanded to include all
principals, assistant principals, department chairs, lead teachers, and coaches.
The specific conclusions that yielded these findings are described below.
Major Findings of the Review
♦ B C P S S spent a significant amount – $58 million, or approximately 6 percent of
the annual operating budget – to build the capacity of teachers and school leaders.
This total includes all sources of funding: local, state, federal, and private sources.
However, there is, as yet, no overarching vision for how the activities supported
should result in improved instructional practice.
Including all sources of funds, B C P SS had $58 million of district- or state-directed
professional development in the school year 2003–2004. This represents approxi-
mately 6 percent of an approximate $900-million operating budget for the
2003–2004 school year, or $9,800 per teacher. This total includes $20 million to
cover teacher salaries for ten working days designated by contract as “profes-
sional development” (PD) days. If these dollars for professional development days
are not included, B C P S S spent approximately 4 percent of the operating budget,
or $6,500 per teacher, on profes-
Figure P1: Comparison of Professional Development Allocations sional development.
8 As Figure P1 shows, Baltimore
With PD Days invests as much as or more than
Without PD Days
other districts such as Boston, Min-
neapolis, and Providence that have
4.6% 4.6% organized aggressive reform efforts
4 3.7% focused on building teacher capac-
ity. This suggests that there are
existing resources to make tremen-
dous and sustainable improve-
ments in teaching quality across
0 B C P SS – were those resources used
in a coherent and targeted manner.
NOTE: All funds
How the money is spent
Teacher salary costs for professional development days, which we will discuss in
more detail later, cost the district approximately $20 million and constitute 33
percent of the district professional development expenditure. We exclude this
cost from the remainder of this section to focus on out-of-pocket costs for profes-
sional development and to facilitate a more relevant discussion of the size of
these investments relative to each other.
As shown in Figure P2 below, the remaining top seventeen initiatives account for
95 percent of the professional development spending exclusive of professional
development days, or $36 million of $38 million. We will describe these initia-
tives in greater detail in the section on the relevant findings and in Appendix 5.
Figure P2: BCPSS Spending on Professional Development by Top Initiatives
% OF PD SPENDING *Department head numbers are calculated
AMOUNT SPENT (MINUS THE SALARY FOR as the contractual “non-instructional” time
INITIATIVE NAME (IN MILLIONS) 10 CONTRACTUAL PD DAYS) of department heads. At present, some or
all of this time may not be used for PD as
Academic Coaches (Title I) $ 9.3 25% practices vary across B C P S S schools.
*Department Head $ 5.6 15%
Instructional Support Teachers (CEO) $ 3.6 10%
State Reconstitution Support $ 2.7 7%
New Teacher Blum Mentors $ 2.4 6%
New Teacher Summer Institute $ 1.9 5%
Achievement First (Direct Model) $ 1.7 4%
MIS training programs $ 1.5 4%
Tuition reimbursement $ 1.5 4%
CEO’s District Extra Planning Time $ 1.2 3%
Area Lead Coaches $ 1.0 3%
Achievement First (Indirect Model) $ 0.8 2%
Teacher Development Program Johns Hopkins $ 0.7 2%
Principal Interns $ 0.7 2%
Staff Development Director’s office $ 0.6 2%
CAO’s Office Support $ 0.5 1%
AAO Office Support $ 0.4 1%
NOTE: Bolded items are investments explicitly targeted only to the C E O’s district,
which comprised only 10 elementary schools.
Source of funds
The total spending of $58 million (including spending on professional develop-
ment days) and $38 million (without professional development days) includes
initiatives funded by the Fund for Educational Excellence, private foundations,
the state, and the federal government. We have included only those private, state,
or federal funds that we could identify specifically as professional development
expenses. Federal funds include almost $10 million worth of Elementary and Sec-
ondary Education Act programs, including $9 million for coaches funded prima-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 35
Figure P3: Professional Development Spending in BCPSS
BOSTON CINCINNATI ALBUQUERQUE CHICAGO MINNEAPOLIS BALTIMORE
Comparative PD Spending, Source of Spending, without PD Days per Institutes
rily through Title I funds. State funds include $2.4 million toward B C P S S ’s share
of state reconstitution support, which is spent primarily on “technical assistants”
who work with principals in a coaching-type role. The state also provides work-
shop-type support for new principals and for principals in schools eligible for
some type of restructuring. Private funds of $5 million include the professional
development portions of a grant for high school restructuring, Blum mentors
($2.4 million), and numerous other smaller grants as identified in the B C P SS
Interestingly, as Figure P3 shows, despite spending millions of Title I dollars on
academic coaches, B C P S S relied less heavily than most other districts studied on
federal funds to support professional development. Federal dollars comprise $10
million, or 25 percent, of the professional development spending in the district,
excluding professional development days. These dollars included $9 million for
academic coaches in high-poverty schools (Title I) with the remaining federal
professional development money coming from Title II, I D E A part B, and other
receives significant additional federal money that could be dedicated
B C P SS
toward professional development as needed. For example, in 2003–2004 B C P SS
received almost $10 million in Title II funds for improving teacher quality. These
funds have historically been used exclusively to support professional develop-
ment in math and science.
But recent changes in the legislation allow districts to use these funds to support
class-size reduction. B C P SS did not choose to use these dollars for professional
development but, instead, spent most of this money to fund the hiring of approx-
imately one hundred elementary teachers to reduce class size, yielding a net class-
size reduction in elementary schools of nearly one student per class. While the
trade-off between having more teachers or having more highly qualified teachers
is a difficult one to make, B C P S S, with its significant challenges in recruiting and
retaining teachers, may find that investing more in teacher quality will have a
greater payoff in terms of improved student performance.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DAYS
♦ Teacher time for professional development in the form of contracted non-student
time for teachers designated for professional development represents both a large
investment and an opportunity for improved achievement at $20 million, or over 30
percent of the total spending on professional development.
The difficulty in creating time for teachers to plan and learn together is often
cited as the largest barrier to school improvement. The B C P SS contract recognizes
this challenge by including ten full days for teacher planning. B C P SS invests $20
million, or $2 million per day, in these professional development days, represent-
ing 33 percent of the total district professional development spending. This figure
includes salary and benefit costs associated with over 6,000 teachers participating
in the ten contractual professional development days. It does not include the
amount of money spent on planning and executing the training itself.
Compared with other urban districts, this represents a large investment in profes-
sional development days. Figure P4 below compares the contractual workdays in
a sample of similar reform-focused districts. The table shows that B C P SS has sig-
nificantly more contractual teacher time devoted to professional development
than many other urban districts.
Figure P4: Teacher Contracted Workdays in Selected District
BALTIMORE BOSTON CINCINNATI PHILADELPHIA CHICAGO PROVIDENCE
Total Teacher Days 190 187 186 190.5 191 187
Student Days 180 180 181 180 181 182
Non-student Teacher Days (not PD) 0 .5 5 3.5 2 1.5
Teacher PD Days 10 4.5 0 5.5 8 3.5
Estimated No. of Teachers 6,100 4,600 2,600 12,000 26,530 2,300
NOTE: that non-student teacher workdays that are not designated as PD are commonly used to set up and
break down classrooms at the beginning and end of the school year and/or for teacher-parent conferences.
This unusually high level of investment in teacher time represents a significant
opportunity for B C P SS, if the time can be used effectively to improve instruction.
B C P SS must take care to create a balance between whole-day blocks of time for
planning and more frequent, regular time that can provide real-time support to
ongoing classroom work. This means emphasizing the scheduling of regular col-
laborative time for professional development during the regular school day and
perhaps rethinking the structure of the ten days of contractual time. Some dis-
tricts, like the Boston Public Schools, have changed the structure of these days to
convert them to “hours” of time that can be scheduled throughout the year.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 37
Research also suggests that teachers and school leaders in poorly performing
schools need structured, expert support to change their practices. Professional
development time can best be used to support teachers in improving content
instruction by examining their own classroom activities and their impact on stu-
dent work. One of the most important professional development priorities for the
upcoming school year and beyond should be investing to ensure that all schools
have this support and, in district collaboration with school leaders, designing
customized use of this time.
In the 2003–2004 school year, B C P SS professional development days were used
for a variety of topics, targeted to many different groups of teachers. Although
some of the training was necessary and of high quality, in many cases, teachers
were read scripts prepared by the Professional Development Department on spe-
cific topics that met district or state compliance needs, such as special education
regulations. From interviews, it was clear that most teachers were never given the
opportunity to discuss the work of their own students in a supported small-group
setting during the professional development days. Accountability and support for
the planning and use of these professional development days appeared to vary
widely across Area Academic Officers (A A O s) group.
TEACHER PLANNING TIME
♦ Lack of common planning time for teachers during the school day limits the
impact of the investment in academic coaches and hinders school improvement.
Research suggests that high-performing schools incorporate common planning
time for teachers into the everyday life of the school – at least ninety minutes a
week. The studies show that teachers use this time to work together with other
teachers to analyze individual student performance, look at student work and
classroom assignments, and adjust instructional practice. In addition, an effective
coaching strategy requires that all schools have common planning time, thereby
providing coaches with consistent and adequate time to work with teachers.
Despite the large number of professional development days described above,
B C P SS schools lack common planning time that can be used for professional
development to improve teaching and learning. The Baltimore Teachers Union
agreement requires all middle and high school teachers to have five preparation
periods a week. However, the contract specifies that these preparation periods
may not be used for common planning time. With many high schools and middle
schools on a 4x4 schedule, preparation periods represent a significant investment
for B C P S S – one-fourth of a secondary teacher’s salary. B C P S S should investigate
both contract and scheduling changes to promote more accountable use of this
time. For example, a seven-period day allows school leaders to schedule double
blocks of English and mathematics and provides them with increased flexibility
to create common planning time for grade-level or subject-matter teachers.
At the elementary school level, B C P SS teachers’ contract provides for at least three
forty-five-minute individual preparation periods a week. In most cases, this is all
the preparation time they receive. Just as in the secondary schools, though, these
periods cannot be used for common planning time. In addition, contract provi-
sions only allow teachers to take preparation time when their classes are covered
by physical education, art, music, or resource teachers. B C P SS should investigate
contract and scheduling changes that allow elementary teachers to use these and
other times to meet collaboratively for at least ninety minutes a week.
SCHOOL-LEVEL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES
♦ School-level professional development resources are not allocated equitably or
strategically across schools and teachers. In many cases, significant school-level
resources are not integrated into a comprehensive strategy for improving instruction
and so contribute to fragmentation and dilution of effort.
Of the $38 million of professional development spending in B C P SS (excluding
professional development days), about $29 million can be tied to specific school
sites. This amounts to over $4,800 per teacher. In some B C P SS schools, this
money seems to be integrated into the school’s instructional vision and curricu-
lum in ways that seem likely to lead systematically to improved instruction, when
paired with clear standards of accountability around instructional practices.
Specifically, the nine schools in the C E O’s District, most of the Area 3 Direct
Instruction schools, several of the New Schools Initiative schools (also in the
C EO’s District), and many of the Achievement First Direct Model schools have
organized to provide instructional coaching in literacy and in math (as well as
some other subjects in some schools) around specific curricula. Thus, B C P S S has
existing models of instructionally coherent professional development to build on.
However, school-level professional development support is not distributed
equally across all schools, nor is it consistent across schools that appear to have
similar needs. Figure P5 illustrates that some schools receive nearly $20,000 per
teacher, while other schools receive as little as $1,000 per teacher.
Figure P5: Dollar Allocations per Teacher in BPCSS
1 8 4 B C P S S S C H O O L S
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 39
At least since the restructuring of 1992, B C P SS has attempted to group schools
into areas based upon need and curriculum and to vary professional development
investment across those areas. Three years ago, B C P SS regrouped its schools into
seven groups called “Areas”: four elementary areas (numbered 1–4), one middle
school area (5), one high school area (6), and one area for the C E O’s model
schools and (subsequently) the New Schools Initiative schools (7). Most of the
schools that were implementing a curriculum model called “Direct Instruction”
were grouped in Elementary Area 3, and schools with the highest need were
grouped in Area 4. Nine schools, designated by the state for reconstitution, were
grouped together in the C E O ’s District (one school was added later). These
schools received extra resources according to an intensive model of support and
supervision we describe below. Figure P6 below shows the resulting distribution
of professional development dollars across areas.
Figure P6: Dollar Allocations Per Teacher by Area
New Teacher Inst.
10,000 Instructional Support Teach
Achieve First Direct
State Recons Support
AREA 1 AREA 2 AREA 3 AREA 4 CEO MODEL HIGH MIDDLE NEW
SCHOOL SCHOOL INITIATIVE
C EO model schools received the most support, followed by Area 4 schools. How-
ever, within each area, we again found wide ranges of professional development
dollars per teacher; some schools in each area receive practically no support,
while other schools receive tremendous levels of support.
Digging deeper, there appears to be no link between the “need” for professional
development support and the actual level of resources schools receive. For exam-
ple, since the state designates schools with the lowest student performance as
“restructuring” schools, one might expect significantly more professional devel-
opment dollars to be invested in schools in Figure P7: Investment by School Improvement Category
restructuring status. However, there is no pre-
dictable correlation between professional devel-
opment investment per teacher and the school’s
improvement status. Within each category of
school improvement, there is such a wide vari-
ability of professional development investment
that significant numbers of non-restructuring 10
schools receive far more professional develop-
ment support than restructuring schools in any 5
category. Figure P7 shows the professional
development investment per teacher across 0
NO RESTRUCTURING YEAR 4
each “restructuring” level and how long they
have been in that level.
Instead, how much professional development support a school receives depends
upon what “categories” or “labels” it has. Many of these categories describe
school need for support at some level. Others, such as Achievement First’s direct
and indirect models, were awarded for other reasons. Though some of the criteria
for determining whether a school gets professional development resources make
logical sense, in many cases there is little difference between Title I and non–
Title I schools, or between restructuring and non-restructuring schools, in B C P SS.
Figure P8 illustrates that some typical schools receive over $500,000 of profes-
sional development resources, while similarly sized schools with almost the same
level of need receive less than $20,000.
Figure P8: Professional Development Support by School Type
ACHIEVEMENT FIRST OR
CEO’S DISTRICT TITLE I RECONST. DIRECT INSTRUCTION NON-TITLE I MIDDLE NEW INITIATIVE
PD RESOURCE ELEMENTARY ELEMENTARY ELEMENTARY NO EXTRA SCHOOL HIGH SCHOOL SCHOOLS
Academic Coach (Title I) $84 $84 $84 $84
Instructional Support Teachers $400
Department Heads $140 $280
(Direct Model) $70 $70
Achievement First $40
State Reconstitution Support $29 $29 $29 $29
New Teacher Institute $11 $11 $11 $11 $11 $11
Blum Mentor $13 $13 $13 $13 $13 $13
Extra Planning Time $60
School PD Budget $5 $5 $5 $5 $5 $5 $5
Model Specific Coach $40
TOTAL $588 $212 $113 $29 $322 $338 $129
Typical Dollar Amount per School (in thousands of dollars)
NOTE: These figures illustrate what a school would receive if it participated in certain programs we found typical for the groups
of schools indicated. By design, this chart does not show averages, which can be found elsewhere.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 41
Figure P9 also shows the typical amount a school might receive for professional
development from select professional development initiatives. It then explains
why the school would (or would not) receive money from that particular program.
This helps explain the wide variation in professional development dollars per
teacher across schools within each category of student need, however measure d .
Figure P9: Professional Development Support by PD
TYPICAL VALUE TYPE OF SUPPORT SCHOOL DISCRETION WHY A SCHOOL GETS IT
PD RESOURCE (IN THOUSANDS) OVER USE
Academic Coach (Title I) $84 Coaching Some High Poverty Level
Instructional Support Teacher $160-$320 Coaching No CEO’s Model School
Department Head $60 Teacher Time Yes Size of Secondary
Achievement First $30 Coaching No AAO Decision
Achievement First TBD Coaching No AAO Decision
State reconstitution support $29 Coaching No Restructuring Status
Blum Mentors $16 Coaching No District PD Office Decision
District-Funded Extra $60 Teacher Time Some CEO’s Model School
Extra Coach $80 Coaching Yes School Decision
Additional AAO Support $16 Flexible No CEO’s Model School
for CEO District
The Example of the C E O ’s District
The C E O ’s District contains nine (now ten) schools that follow the “C EO model”
and eleven schools that are part of the New Schools Initiative.
Each of the eleven New Schools Initiative schools is operated with the support
of an external operator to help them achieve a specific instructional vision,
approach, or focus. To give them the flexibility to create such a program, they are
able to claim exemption from various district programs. A list of these schools,
their operators, and their unique missions appears in Appendix 6.
C EO model schools receive on average approximately $13,000 per teacher for
professional development, while other school models average $3,000 to $5,000
per teacher. Each C EO model school receives three to seven instructional support
teachers, depending mostly on size. This support accounts for 60 percent of the
overall professional development investment in C EO schools. These Instructional
Support Teachers (I S T s) are trained by Achievement First professional developers
who have provided demonstration lessons (usually in literacy). 3 Also, I S T s work
with principals in regular training sessions to help them work with teachers
These IST positions may not exist next
around student-specific assessment data. I S T s, in turn, work with small teams of
year due to budget constraints. teachers in each school during professional development and early release time.
The I S T s are thus the vehicle by which professional development is provided to
classroom teachers and the keystone of the C E O model.
Other major categories of professional development support in the C E O ’s District
include extra planning time (fifty minutes per week plus seven additional profes-
sional development days), Achievement First support, state-supplied restructur-
ing support for eligible schools, new teacher support through the district-run
summer institute, and professional development support provided by A A O -level
personnel in the C E O ’s District office (area lead coaches, etc).
The nine original schools in the C E O ’s District have improved student perform-
ance so much that many now exceed state performance standards and four have
moved out of the restructuring category. It is important to build on these exam-
ples, but in a systematic and thoughtful way.
ACADEMIC LITERACY COACHES
♦ Investment in academic literacy coaches makes up the bulk of B C P S S spending on
school-level professional development. This represents a focused use of resources.
However, the models for coaching are not well defined and there is limited accounta-
bility for effective use of coaches.
Despite the fact that the district eliminated “academic coaches” at non–Title I
schools for 2003–2004, it still provides professional development primarily
through coaches. In fact, if we exclude professional development days, $18 mil-
lion of the remaining $38 million of professional development spending supports
one or another type of school-level “coach” whose primary assignment is the
improvement of teaching quality. The largest category of coaching-type positions
is the “academic coach” position, funded primarily through Title I dollars ($9.3
million). Other “coaches” also exist under many names. For example, department
heads are released from 25 percent to 100 percent of their teaching responsibili-
ties based on the size of their department, as stipulated in the union contract.
This release time represents an investment of $5.6 million of possible professional
development dollars. Based on interviews, we estimated (perhaps generously) that
about half of that time is used for professional development in a coaching-type
model, for an investment of $2.8 million. I S T s in the C EO’s District account for
another $3.6 million. Achievement First and Direct Instruction Professional
Developers (in both the direct and indirect models) provide another $3 million
worth of instructional coaching for teachers. All told, there are over 230 full-time
equivalent coaching personnel in B C P SS. This represents an investment that
approaches $19 million, or almost half of the professional development invest-
ment in B C P S S (excluding professional development days).
While many of these coaches are assigned to focus on literacy, the models for
coaching are not defined consistently across areas and are not necessarily aligned
with the performance challenges of the schools. For instance, some schools have
multiple coaches across multiple subjects, while other schools in the same aca-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 43
demic area have no coaches at all. Or a school might have a literacy coach but no
math coach, despite low math scores. Other schools have invested in some form
of coaching but do not organize to provide common planning time so that
coaches can conduct weekly professional development for teacher teams. Finally,
due to the many types of coaching personnel and the programmatic nature of
coaching support, many coaches receive little ongoing training and support
except in the C E O’s District, Achievement First Direct, and some New Schools
In summary, the coaching function in B C P SS is not integrated into a comprehen-
sive strategy for improving instruction. As discussed above, professional develop-
ment investment, including coaching services, does not align with student and
staff needs. This misalignment results in a situation where some schools have
many coaches while other schools have none, and the level of coaching resources
does not appear linked to need. As shown below in Figure P10, based on district-
provided data, 21 schools have 103 coaches, while 53 schools combined have 6
full-time coaches. 4
Figure P10: Number of Instructional Coaches per School
First 21 schools alone have 103 coaches.
Last 53 schools combined
have 6 FTE coaches.
1 8 4 B C P S S S C H O O L S
significant investment in coaching represents an enormous opportunity
B C P S S ’s
to focus existing resources sharply on improved teaching and learning.
When district data was supplemented As will be discussed in the Curriculum Review, observations of coaching in action
by interviews that identified coaching
revealed that schools’ definitions of coaches’ professional responsibilities varied
resources the school has allocated out
of its own budget, the number of widely. While some individuals took an active role in classrooms, co-teaching and
schools with no coaches drops slightly. assuming equal responsibility for the quality of instruction, the majority of
According to interview data, it
coaches observed “sat back” in the role of an observer. These findings suggest
appears that between forty and fifty
schools have no district- or school- that the current approach to coaching does not appear to support the growth of
allocated coaching resources. literacy or critical and creative thinking at a level equal to the investment.
♦ B C P S S invests significant resources in teacher induction, but it is not part of a
clear career development strategy and is not linked to an overall school-improvement
Districts and schools balance professional development between building individ-
ual skills and strengthening the instructional capacity of entire faculties or pro-
gram areas. Individual professional development is often related to the specific
career stage of the instructor; for example, it might be targeted to a beginning
teacher or a teacher with an unsatisfactory rating. Alternatively, individual profes-
sional development might be used to support an educator’s individual need to
gain specific skills, such as adding a special education certification.
Professional development targeting an entire school builds individual capacity,
but only in the context of a school-level or instructional program effort. These
activities engage a school’s teachers in building knowledge about program or sub-
ject areas. Two examples of this are comprehensive school-reform models and
school-based coaching in content areas.
B C P SStargets $7 million, or about 11 percent, of professional development at
individual teacher and principal professional development (see Figure P11).
Of that amount, $6 million, or 10 percent of all professional development spend-
ing, is targeted for teachers, focused mainly on new teachers through the New
Teacher Institute and mentoring programs. The remaining $1 million is targeted
Figure P11: Professional Development Allocations
Target at Individuals
11% of PD
$1 million $6 million
1% of PD 10% of PD
Induction Education Development Remediation
New Teacher Inst: $2m Tuition Reimbursement National Board Certificate $0
Mentors: $2.4 million $1.5 million less tan $0.1million
Professional development for teachers is concentrated on induction and continu-
ing education. Historically, almost no district professional development funds
have been spent on leadership development or remediation.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 45
The district spends approximately $7,000 per teacher to support new teachers as
they enter B C P S S . This support comes primarily from two programs. The district
spends $2 million on the New Teacher Institute, which provides three weeks of
summer support for new teachers. Although the program is voluntary, most new
teachers participate in this program. However, it is not available to teachers who
are hired after the summer deadline. The second program is the district’s “Blum”
mentor program, which provides mentors to schools with high concentrations of
new teachers. The district invests $2.4 million in these mentors. The Blum pro-
gram provides 29 mentors at 20 schools to provide services to 500 to 600 new
This is a significant amount of money to spend on new teachers, and principals
and teachers interviewed feel positively about the program. However, the Blum
mentors and the summer training are not well integrated with the receiving
school’s needs. Blum coaches often work in several schools and they are not
accountable to the school principal in providing support. Teachers in the New
Teacher Institute receive a general orientation that may not be linked to the cur-
riculum or approach their assigned school will use. This is generally because
some teachers have not been assigned specific schools by the start of the summer
program, so it is impossible to provide content instruction specifically for the par-
ticular literacy model an elementary teacher might be asked to teach.
In addition to the support for new teachers, B C P SS also invests $1.5 million to
reimburse new and veteran teachers for courses taken. However, there is no delib-
erate strategy to ensure that the courses teachers take meet district or school
needs. Some districts are seeking ways to link coursework to district needs, par-
ticularly in light of the fact that teachers also receive salary increases based on
additional credits garnered. For example, Albuquerque Public Schools aggres-
sively promotes tuition reimbursement opportunities that lead to certification as a
special education or bilingual teacher, since these are shortage areas for the dis-
trict. Other districts offer tuition reimbursement as a reward and support for
teachers who have the potential for and interest in leadership roles in their
B C P SShas recently begun to invest in expanding the number of National Board–
certified teachers in the district (the current number is thirteen).
♦ B C P S S has no comprehensive strategy to develop strong school leaders, despite
significant state-directed spending to support principals in poorly performing
schools. The leadership development strategy should be expanded to include all
principals, assistant principals, department chairs, lead teachers, and coaches.
ability to support improved instruction depends on the quality of its
B C P S S ’s
school leaders. In the coming years, B C P S S will have an enormous need to
develop new school leaders. As Figure P12 shows, two-thirds of the current
principals have more than twenty-five years of experi- Figure P12: Experience of Principals in BCPSS
ence and will be soon leaving the district. Nearly half of
the remaining third have fewer than two years’ experi- • 67% of principals have 25+ years of experience
ence as a principal. Though it does have some impor- • 23 of the remaining principals (42%) have less
tant components in place, B C P S S does not have a coher- than 2 years of experience
ent strategy to develop strong school leaders. A princi- • 86 Elementary school principals (10%) are new
pal support and accountability strategy should differen- • 47 Middle school principals (17%) are new
tiate based on quality of experience of the principal, the • 36 High school principals (17%) are new
need of the school and the curriculum adopted.
Figure P13 below shows that the district has $4.8 million in professional develop-
ment resources targeted at principals, not including its investment in student-free
days and principal meetings. School-level support represents 80 percent, or $3.84
million, of this amount, and individual career-growth support represents 20 per-
cent, or $970,000. Approximately 58 percent of these resources ($2.8 million)
come from the state for reconstitution support for schools in restructuring ($2.74
million) or for workshops and seminars aimed at new principals in B C P SS
($70,000). The specific initiatives are described in more detail below.
Figure P13: Professional Development Support for Principals
INITIATIVE AMOUNT (MILLIONS) % OF TOTAL PD FOR PRINCIPALS
Individual Career Growth $0.97 20%
Principal Interns $0.80 17%
Principal Induction $0.10 2%
State-Sponsored Workshops $0.07 1%
for New Principals
School Level Improvement $3.84 80%
State Reconstitution Support $2.74 57%
Achievement First $0.40 8%
AAO Support $0.70 15%
Excludes Monthly Principal Meetings and Contractual Professional Development Days
As a result of the source of funds and the targeting of these funds to a small class
of principals (which itself is not problematic), many B C P S S principals receive vir-
tually no professional development outside of their monthly A A O meetings.
While these meetings do provide professional development opportunities for
principals, they are large-group meetings by nature. Such meetings rarely provide
a ready forum for the differentiated coaching or support, which principals and
their leadership teams often require.
The state spends $2.4 million to monitor and provide “technical assistants” (TAs)
to the sixty-three B C P SS schools under restructuring (80 percent of all restructur-
ing schools in the state are in the B C P SS system). TAs, who are typically former
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 47
principals given additional training by the state, offer leadership development
support and coaching to principals and their respective Instructional Leadership
teams. They work with principals to plan and sometimes deliver professional
development. A full-time TA has responsibility for five schools and visits each at
least once per week.
In addition, the state provides one full-time and one part-time statewide monitor,
each of whom spends 80 percent of his or her time in B C P SS elementary schools
(estimated investment is $100,000 per individual). Unlike the TAs, who work
specifically with leadership teams on a broad set of issues, monitors focus on
instruction. Since the monitor resources cannot possibly support all sixty-three
schools well, monitors work with TAs, meeting with each of the TAs at least twice
a year to plan their work in schools and determine which sites to visit. A TA may
call the monitor back to a particular school for more help.
Though the state feels it would be ideal if elementary and middle school monitors
worked with the B C P S S A A O s to plan or review their work, the monitors have not
done so. Instead, they report their observations to the Maryland State Department
of Education. State leaders chose not to monitor Baltimore high schools this year
because state leaders felt that the close collaboration between Frank DeStefano,
the high school A A O , and the TAs who are assigned to support high schools
makes this extra layer unnecessary.
For schools under restructuring, the state also conducted three Principal Insti-
tutes this school year (in October, November, and January), using Southern
Regional Education Board (S R E B ) modules. These modules focused on analyzing
data and student work, school culture, and instructional leadership. TAs, who
attended a summer S R E B institute, developed and facilitated the Principal Insti-
tutes. In addition to these three statewide sessions, the state held an extra session
in March aimed only at B C P SS middle schools in corrective action or restructur-
ing. We estimated the total B C P SS portion of these costs at $50,000.
While the district desperately needs support in developing principal leadership,
these large group sessions are not necessarily linked to district priorities or to
individual principal or school-specific needs. District and state leaders have an
immediate opportunity to work together to rethink this program and to provide
support to principals that will more effectively integrate with school and district
Individual Career Growth
Individual support for principals includes $1 million, with 80 percent of this
money coming from the B C P S S principal intern program ($800,000). This pro-
gram serves seven to nine new principal interns, targeting those without educa-
tion backgrounds, giving them a year of on-the-job training and attendance at
several training seminars, at an approximate cost of $100,000 per intern, with
most of that going toward the salary and benefits of the intern and with a small
stipend for the receiving principal. According to interviews, this program is quite
popular among those who participate. It is a significant district investment in
professional development. We recommend the district examine the program’s
effectiveness on various measures (retention rates and future performance of par-
ticipants versus non-participants), with the possibility of offering a similar level
of support for assistant principals and educators wishing to become principals.
Other principal-targeted initiatives include state-run workshops for new princi-
pals ($70,000 districtwide). Also, the district offers a principal induction program
($100,000) that pairs new principals with mentors and provides workshops for
new principals on high-priority topics, as determined by program and district
leaders. This program explicitly aims to establish peer networks among cohorts of
new principals that can be maintained throughout their careers.
B C P SS has the potential to integrate the various principal-targeted initiatives into
customized support networks based not only on the curricular and performance
needs of the school, but also on the specific needs of the principal. This type of
support network (as embraced in Boston and elsewhere) can already be found in
B C P SS in some of the New Schools Initiative schools. The Curriculum Project, for
example, provides support (coaching) for principals that integrates the school’s
instructional method and curriculum (Direct Instruction). The support varies
according to the experience of the principal, with new principals receiving more
days of coaching each week (on average). In interviews, Curriculum Project prin-
cipals expressed tremendous satisfaction with the professional development sup-
port they received, as opposed to other B C P SS principals, who sometimes felt that
the support they received was fragmented and/or irrelevant to their school’s
Support for Leaders Other than Principals
We found scattered professional development support for other district leaders.
Each A A O has two “lead coaches.” But the use of these coaches varied consider-
ably and there appeared to be no clear model for how they should work with
other coaches or with principals. Assistant principals also appear to have very
limited professional development opportunities outside of monthly administrative
meetings, and we found no discernible support for A A O s or other central office
Academic coaches appeared to receive less professional development than they
receive in other districts with coaching models. This support came in the form of
twelve training days held throughout the year, during which the coaches received
presentations from experts. It was not clear that Area lead coaches played a con-
sistent or effective role in providing instruction or other professional develop-
ment to academic coaches, although this, too, varied from case to case.
In general, A A O s had varying approaches to the way they worked with the aca-
demic coaches; most did not view them as part of their leadership and support
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 49
teams. By contract, the support and professional development of coaches has
been a centerpiece of more successful district reform efforts. In Boston Public
Schools and San Diego, for example, coaches spend one day per week with their
supervisors engaged in problem solving together, with expert support.
♦ B C P S S functions without strong line accountability for implementing coherent
school-improvement programs and improving the quality of instruction.
With the exception of the C E O ’s District, B C P SS has not organized its human
resources to supervise and support schools in improving performance. As
described above, B C P SS has organized its 182 schools into seven “Areas,” each
under the supervision of an Area Academic Officer (A A O ). Four Areas contain the
elementary schools. As Figure P14 below shows, the A A O s have responsibility for
evaluating between twenty-two and thirty-three principals and for reviewing and
supporting the improvement activities in as many schools. In Area 4, twenty out
of the twenty-seven schools are being restructured due to persistently poor per-
formance. Yet this Area receives no extra resources.
Each A A O has two lead coaches and two director-level staff members who spend
varying amounts of time supporting professional development. Each A A O has a
different way of reviewing school plans and creating accountability for school
improvement, and there is no monitoring of improvement of instruction. The
roles that these professionals play vary across the Areas, as do their qualifications
and expertise in supporting school improvement. Furthermore, within each Area,
numerous individuals not within the chain of command (state-provided technical
assistants or externally provided coaches) are also delivering messages to teach-
ers, coaches, and principals. In the absence of clearly defined standards of
instructional practice, this multiplicity of voices, coupled with a weak accounta-
bility structure, often leads to a chaotic or ineffectual implementation of district
messages and a failure to meet the state’s high standards for student performance.
Figure P14: AAO Responsibilities
CORE KNOWLEDGE DIRECT INSTRUCTION
NUMBER OF SCHOOLS IN ACHIEVEMENT AND DIRECT ONLY OR CORE NO OUTSIDE SPECIAL
AREA SCHOOLS RESTRUCTURING FIRST SCHOOLS INSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE ONLY MODEL EDUCATION ONLY
1 Elementary 33 2 7 1 1 25 0
2 Elementary 32 11 3 0 0 14 1
3 Elementary 24 16 1 11 4 5 2
4 Elementary 27 20 25 0 0 *1 1
Middle School 22 16 22 0 0 0 1
High School 33 6 0 0 0 0 4
CEO District 10 6 9 1 0 0 0
New Schools Initiative 13 4 3
* This is an “alternative” school
We believe that for B C P SS to achieve sustainable improvement in student per-
formance, especially in a context where schools and areas are accustomed to the
autonomy and variability afforded by multiple curricular models, the district
needs to make a significant additional investment in performance management
and leadership support that includes a significantly smaller span of controls for
area officers, more clearly defined authority and responsibilities, and clearly
defined expectations for excellent teachers, coaches, principals, principal supervi-
sors, and area officers.
An effective performance management system Figure P15: Steps to Effective Performance Management
in B C P SS would have three component steps
(see Figure P15):
• Communicate clear standards for instruction.
• Empower instructional leadership.
• Evaluate performance and progress and pro-
Each of these steps will require the district to
take clear action as follows:
♦ Step 1 - Communicate clear standards.
• Define performance standards that meet the
district’s strategy and goals.
• Define observable (measurable) indicators of
• Define and adopt a rubric for evaluation.
• Define positive and negative consequences.
• Communicate the observable indicators, the evaluative rubric,
and the consequences in ways that ensure buy-in by key personnel and
♦ Step 2 – Empower instructional leadership.
• Provide authority by eliminating barriers and inflexibilities.
• Provide support and capacity through training, tools and recruiting, and
• Build consensus and ownership by refining standards and integrating strategic
planning with budgeting processes.
♦ Step 3 – Evaluate performance and progress and provide feedback.
• Invest in systems and processes for measuring performance.
• Report performance in a timely way.
• Review performance reports regularly.
• Assign consequences for performance (most employees should meet or exceed
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 51
Every year, B C P SS invests significant resources on professional development activ-
ities, even more than other comparable urban districts. Professional development
funds include a considerable amount from federal, state, and local sources. How-
ever, the fragmented sources of funds, the lack of strategic planning, the lack of
an instructional context, and the lack of appropriate accountability structures all
combine to render much of this investment ineffective.
To create an effective professional development strategy, the district must create a
coherent plan that focuses its professional development activities on the most
important subjects, schools, and students, in ways that research suggests seem
most likely to result in student performance improvement. This suggests the need
for a multiyear professional development plan that is:
• focused on highest-priority district goals;
• coherent – not having duplicative efforts in some needed areas and gaps in oth-
ers (such as leadership development);
• research-based – relying on job-embedded strategies that combine regular com-
mon planning time in the school day with frequent school-based instruction
around a rigorous curriculum and specific student work;
• equitable and strategic – giving professional development resources based on
need, while recognizing that the current unequal allocation of professional
development resources is neither equitable nor strategic;
• accountable for the use of professional development time and money, clearly
specifying how the activity will meet the goal of systematically improving
the quality of instruction in B C P SS and help teachers meet clear standards for
good instruction that are even now being laid out in the K–12 instructional
These strategies will take many years to fully adopt, but a clear multiyear profes-
sional development strategy needs to be adopted and implemented immediately
for the 2004–2005 school year. Neither teachers nor students can wait.
Miles, K. 2003. “The Big Picture: District Strategy Primes the Canvas for School
Improvement,” J o u rnal of Staff Development 24:3 (Summer).
Miles, K., E. Guiney, and K. Winner. 2000. P rofessional Development Spending in
the Boston Public Schools. Boston: Boston Plan for Excellence. Available on the
Web at <www.bpe.org>.
Miles, K., A. Odden, S. Archibald, and M. Fermanich. Forthcoming. “Inside the
Black Box of School District Spending on Professional Development: Lessons
from Five Urban Districts,” J o u rnal of Education Finance.
A Review of the Literacy and Mathematics Curriculum
of the Baltimore City Public School System
C oncurrently with a professional development review, the Annenberg Institute
for School Reform at Brown University was engaged to examine the align-
ment of the state and district curriculums and the quality of instruction in literacy
and mathematics as delivered in classrooms. The resulting close examination of
standards, expectations, classroom interactions, and student work was designed to:
• examine whether and how Baltimore educators use data to formulate what the
curriculum needs to accomplish;
• investigate the alignment between the Baltimore City Public School System
(B C P S S ) curriculum and the expectations laid out in the Maryland Voluntary
State Curriculum (V S C ), specifically in literacy and mathematics;
• evaluate the extent to which Baltimore educators are able to translate the
expectations of the V S C and its own emerging curricular frameworks into
engaging and supportive classroom instruction;
• examine the match between external and internal forms of assessment, looking
at the extent to which students are receiving comparable feedback from forma-
tive (school- and classroom-based) and summative (state-based) assessments;
• explore the potential connections between the in-school curriculum and out-
of-school learning opportunities.
Each segment of the curriculum review concludes with recommendations about
how to build a comprehensive system that focuses investment and attention
where it is most likely to improve student learning.
Curriculum is better aligned to state standards, but teachers
lack support to provide rigorous and appropriate learning
opportunities for students.
The curriculum in B C P S S is intended to provide students with a high standard of
education modeled on the widely respected expectations and curriculum frame-
works of the state of Maryland. However, as enacted in many Baltimore class-
rooms, the B C P SS curriculum provides large numbers of students with minimum
basic skills. As young adults, most graduates will be able to read a bus schedule
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 53
or a aspirin label, fill out an employment form, check the addition on a credit
statement, or help their second grader with her times tables. But the current cur-
riculum will not prepare the majority of students for the demands or rewards of
postsecondary education or jobs requiring higher-order thinking and creativity.
At present, the district central office staff is not structured to support improve-
ment. Nor is there the depth of knowledge to support principals, teachers, and
coaches in making substantive change in major subject areas such as literacy and
mathematics. As a result, teachers and coaches have no coherent approach to lit-
eracy or mathematics. Despite the substantial number of children with special
needs in the district, there is little understanding of them as part of a continuum
of learners. Finally, while the state tests have provided concrete goals for
improvement, teachers have little training in the kinds of formative assessment
that can match instruction to students’ needs.
The Framework for the Curriculum Review
The curriculum review examined the clear, translatable to classroom p ro g ress toward acquiring the
coherence and alignment among practice, and coherent in its mes- knowledge and skills necessary to
• Maryland State Core Learning Goals sage to schools and teachers about meet the state’s challenging aca-
• BCPSS curriculum goals and man- the level of expectations with demic standards; assessment meas-
dates regard to content, sequence, and ures need not be limited to high-
student outcomes. stakes tests and should include cur-
• curriculum-in-use in schools and
riculum-based local assessments
teachers’ classroom practices • The enacted curriculum: How teachers
that provide diagnostic information
• forms of feedback and assessment use materials from the intended cur-
about student perf o rmance to teach-
that students receive riculum in their classrooms.
ers, enabling them to adapt the
• opportunities for students to extend The enacted curriculum should offer
enacted curriculum appropriately to
their learning outside of school high-quality instruction with an
the learning needs of students.
emphasis on accelerated, rather
The Scope of the Curriculum Review This three-level curriculum is dia-
than remedial, learning and should
To develop a full understanding of the readily reveal the connections grammed in Figure C1.
alignment issues, the researchers between the learning standards set Sources and Methods for the Curriculum
reviewed three aspects of the BCPSS cur- forth in the intended curriculum and Review
riculum and analyzed their findings the tasks students are asked to per- Typically, a curriculum audit focuses
against broad criteria that reflect how form daily in classrooms. largely, if not exclusively, on the docu-
these different aspects of teaching and
• The assessed curriculum: Knowledge mentary evidence of alignment among
learning operate in districts where stu-
and skills that teachers grade and that standards, instruction, and assessment.
dents are making good progress toward
a re tested on the Maryland School Because the BCPSS student achievement
meeting high academic expectations.
Assessment, including response to stu- data already showed such a clear need
• The intended curriculum: Goals,
dent work, grades, and formative and to improve instruction, this review ven-
materials, and guidelines promoted
summative assessments that reflect the tured deep into the daily practices of
by the state to ensure that all students schools through interviews, observations,
same high standard s .
meet the state’s academic standards. and the examination of assignments and
The assessed curriculum should
The intended curriculum should be resulting student work. Thus, the findings
clearly demonstrate students’
The curriculum review team (see Appendix 1) examined standards, curricular
frameworks, teaching, and learning in both literacy and mathematics. The team
used documents, interviews, classroom observations, and a sample of student
work to identify critical issues in the B C P S S curriculum. The major findings
♦ Many B C P S S students encounter a steady diet of routinized, basic-skills instruction
that is rarely rigorous or motivating.
• Students are accustomed to being “told what to do” rather than generating
their own new understandings, questions, or points of view. Although there
are exceptions, “routine work” with low cognitive demand – and equally little
reward – is the norm, particularly for students who are not in the honors
speak directly to what has to change in • Maryland English Language Arts Measurements and Reasoning, Data
daily practice and in the central office (ELA) Content Standards (2000) Analysis, and Probability (2001)
supports for that practice. • Maryland Mathematics Content Stan- • Voluntary State Curriculum: Pre-K–3,
Researchers used a variety of indicators dards (2000) 3–8 (draft, revised 2003 [MSDE Web
in the curriculum review to gauge the • High School Core Learning Goals for site])
alignment, coherence, and quality of the Reading and Writing • BCPSS Elementary English Language
intended, enacted, and assessed curricu- • High School Core Learning Goals for Arts (ELA) Curriculum: K–5 (2000)
lum (opportunities for students to learn Functions and Algebra, Geometry and K–5 (partial; draft 2004)
valued skills, knowl-
and habits of mind). The Figure C1. Alignment across the Curriculum
primary sources of data
are outlined below.
Policy tools such as curriculum standards, frameworks, VSC, BCPS, Prescribed Texts/Materials
Reviewers also inter-
or guidelines that outline what teachers are expected to • Clear alignment to classroom instructional goals?
viewed key personnel at • Consistency of expectations for teachers?
the school, district, and deliver. Exist at state, community, district, or school level
• Are curricula complementary or conflicting?
state levels about the
and coaching and men-
The Instructional Core: Can one observe…
toring supports avail- The actual curricular content that students
• Alignment to intended curriculum?
able in each academic engage in the classroom. Three mediating • Clear grasp of instructional goals and
area. elements in the enacted curriculum interact understanding of how to accomplish them?
• Accountability for assigned tasks?
key documents related Knowledge and skills directly observable
(e.g., examples of student work, etc.) or What is valued/rewarded/seen as proficient
to current and proposed
inferred (e.g., work, talk suggest metacognition); • Classroom scores and grades, transcripts
K–12 curriculum in
• Maryland State Assessment
BCPSS, including: What’s assessed on high-stakes tests
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 55
• The same skills are practiced across as many as four grades; there is uncertain
articulation across grades or levels of schooling.
• Students struggle to read the materials intended to form the backbone of class-
room instruction. As a result, many teachers often invent their instructional
materials, which vary from thoughtful adaptations of texts and hands-on
demonstrations to serial photocopying out of “activity books” that bear no rela-
tion to the standards-based curriculum. The latter is most prevalent in the
♦ The B C P S S literacy curriculum is currently fragmented and less than rigorous.
• A number of distinct models in K–8 schools prevents a coherent, districtwide
approach to materials and coaching.
• The new B C P S S curriculum, while an advance, focuses on a series of separate
skills taught in daily lesson formats rather than on key or valued performances
(e.g., researching a topic, developing a point of view, writing a persuasive
• BCPSS Elementary Mathematics Cur- School Visits teachers with relatively strong manage-
riculum: K–5 (2000) and K–5 (partial; The researchers visited schools in each ment skills and equally strong relation-
draft 2004) of the seven Academic Areas. Based on ships to their students. In addition, prin-
• BCPSS Middle School ELA Curriculum recommendations of the Area Officers, cipals frequently directed researchers to
(partial; draft 2004) the researchers selected two schools in honors classes, despite the request to
• BCPSS Middle School Mathematics each Area that showed a range of per- visit the full range of classrooms. The
Curriculum Outlines (2001) formance in reading and mathematics researchers were directed to visit a dis-
as measured on the 2003 administration proportionate number of citywide aca-
• BCPSS Middle School Mathematics
of the state tests of student achievement. demic high schools and no citywide
Curriculum (partial; draft 2004)
A list of the schools visited appears in vocational high schools. While these
• BCPSS Course Outlines and Textbook
Appendix 2. choices are understandable, it means
Utilization Guides for High School
that many points within the curriculum
ELA courses The Mathematics observation team vis-
review have an even greater urgency
• BCPSS Course Outlines and Textbook ited twenty-nine classrooms, from
than the current data can portray.
Utilization Guides for Algebra I (Reg- kindergarten through grade eleven, in
thirteen schools. The Literacy team vis- In each school, a team of two observers
ular and Honors), Geometry (Regular
ited seventeen classrooms, from kinder- visited two to three classrooms. The
and Honors), Algebra II (Regular and
garten through grade eleven, in seven majority of instructional areas were
Honors), Pre-calculus (Regular and
schools.1 Principals in each school visited observed (e.g., the literacy team
Honors), Probability and Statistics and
were asked for an interview and a walk- observed reading and writing in the
Advanced Placement Statistics, SAT
through of the school. context of social studies, science.) The
Mathematics Preparation Textbook (no
math and literacy teams used the same
date) Classroom Observations tools and processes for their classroom
• Drafts of literacy units at the high While the researchers were able to observations.
school level under development by the select schools with a range of perform-
Fund for Educational Excellence In each classroom, one of the observers
ance ratings, the principal in each
followed a “currently struggling” and a
• Teacher and student editions of texts school selected the classrooms that
“currently achieving” student (as identi-
in reading, literature, and writing and researchers visited. As a result, the
fied by the teacher or by observation) in
in mathematics currently in use by majority of classrooms were those of
two-minute increments for twenty min-
• The Fund for Educational Excellence is making strides in developing rigorous
and engaging units of study at the middle and high school levels, but this work
must reach into all schools, rather than a selected few.
♦ Mathematics curricula and teaching are largely focused on procedures (e.g.,
using the right algorithm or formula). Students do not currently have the opportunity
to develop the mathematical processes of investigation, application, reflection or
• The new curriculum is a clear improvement over the former textbook-driven
lessons and guidelines. At the same time, there are some significant differences
between the V S C and the units produced in the district’s curriculum-writing
project. While the topics frequently match, the units and individual lessons
focus on procedures more than understanding and provide students with less
opportunity to develop mathematical understanding than they need.
• There is relatively little support for teachers who need and want to improve
their grasp of mathematics. The current K–8 textbooks are not adequate. There
utes each, taking careful notes. The sec- The criteria for coding these four aspects and evaluated them based on a com-
ond observer followed the teacher, not- appears in Appendix 8. mon set of seven criteria:
ing the level of academic expectations • Rigor/High expectations for perform-
that s/he set for students, also at two- ance
minute intervals over twenty minutes. As part of the review, researchers col-
• Student voice and agency
lected a broad sample of assignments
Following the classroom visits, the • Integration of skills and understanding
and student work from schools in each
observer scored the students’ engage- • Authenticity
of the Academic Areas. Each school was
ment in learning on a five-point scale,
asked to submit three consecutive days • Reflection/Metacognition
from 0 (disengagement and/or noncom-
of assignments at each grade level • Differentiation
pliance) to 4 (involvement in productive,
along with the accompanying work of a • Growth over time
self-directed learning). A similar five-
struggling, average, and high-achieving
point scale was used for the teacher
student. The response was not robust.2
observations to capture the nature of 1
The initial plan for the audit called for an equal num-
Some schools did not respond at all;
instruction. (See Appendix 7 for details ber of student, teacher, and classroom observations in
others sent only a convenient sample;
of the coding schemes.) Literacy and in Mathematics. However, the plan was
others omitted information about classes,
The observers then jointly coded four types of students, etc. The strongest and adjusted in response to the recognized need to examine
aspects of classroom interaction that most complete responses were at the ele- Baltimore’s entire system, including central office func-
have been shown to contribute to how mentary level and, as a result, this tions and the Maryland Department of Education. To
well students learn: review is most accurate for grades 1–8. gather qualitative system data, the literacy observers
• Rigor of classroom curriculum (i.e., The discussion of assignments in the interviewed AAOs and central office staff; they made
opportunity to learn) review necessarily focuses on typical fewer classroom visits, but spent more time in each
examples. school visited. The research team believes that this
• Differentiation of instruction to meet
combined approach provided a richer view of the cur-
learners’ needs Based on the characteristics observed in
riculum as written, enacted, and assessed than the orig-
• Informal (or ongoing) assessment of the full data sample, researchers closely
inal process would have permitted.
student work/behavior reviewed a selection of assignments and
• Classroom climate for learning. accompanying student work from two 2
The response to this request is telling. Although this
schools each at the elementary, middle, review is part of a major district initiative with external
and high school levels (see Appendix 9) funding, a number of schools did not respond or
responded only mechanically.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 57
is no coherent plan for professional development in mathematics, and there are
many fewer mathematics coaches than teachers who could benefit from work-
ing with them.
♦ B C P S S teachers work in heterogeneous classrooms and would benefit greatly from
learning how to differentiate instruction to meet students’ needs.
has a long history of failing to address the needs of special populations
B C P SS
(students with disabilities, gifted and talented, children who have experienced
sustained poverty, etc.). Despite two major court cases, general education teachers
• remain unfamiliar with diagnostic and formative types of assessment that could
help them monitor and support the learning of a diverse set of learners;
• struggle to differentiate their instruction (support for struggling students con-
sists largely of social encouragement or discipline; challenge consists of being
asked to do more at a faster rate);
• think in terms of categories of students: gifted, “normal,” and children with
disabilities (these categories bring with them radically different expectations,
rather than a continuum of supports and strategies);
• have few tools that support differentiated practices.
There is little evidence that current forms of professional development address
the needs of different populations of children. The units developed in the curricu-
lum-writing project do not address the adaptations to learners’ needs. Yet, as part
of its cost-cutting measures, B C P S S will have larger, and thus even more heteroge-
♦ Many B C P S S students could profit from learning opportunities that extend what
can occur within the school day, yet the district has no systemic approach to design-
ing, funding, staffing or evaluating such programs.
Students who need additional time and support to keep up with a standards-
based curriculum would benefit from extended learning opportunities. In addi-
tion, many students have talents and interests (music, athletics, public service,
etc.) that, if supported, could keep them engaged in learning through graduation
from high school. Into the spring of 2004, the central office did not coordinate
partnerships and their associated programs effectively. The net result is that
school principals and Area Academic Officers report scrounging for programs
on their own, piecing together services and supports “under the radar.” Further-
more, students who require additional learning opportunities beyond the regular
school year are offered piecemeal summer school options that confound efforts at
The Literacy Curriculum Review
Students experience the B P C S S reading and writing curriculum
as a day-to-day series of itemized skills that are not differenti-
ated for student ability nor used to diagnose student progress.
Students in B C P S S are lively speakers and listeners. In school, however, they
encounter a reading and writing curriculum that engages these inherent abilities
in only the most basic forms of reading and writing.
• The revised B C P S S literacy curriculum is more aligned with the V S C than the
previous smorgasbord of textbook options. But while matched in topics at each
grade level, the B C P SS curriculum, as currently written, attends chiefly to item-
ized skills, taught as a series of daily assignments and reviews.
• Classroom instruction largely mirrors this focus. Teaching and learning is
undifferentiated despite differences in students’ current understanding.
• Classroom assessment is not a diagnostic tool; instead, it is chiefly preparation
for the item types on the state test.
The following sections present the more detailed findings regarding the quality
and coherence of literacy instruction in B C P S S classrooms. These are discussed in
terms of the framework presented earlier: the intended, the enacted, and the
assessed curriculum. The literacy review concludes with a set of specific recom-
mendations for the strengthening of teaching and learning in literacy.
The Intended Curriculum:
Alignment between the B C P S S Curriculum and the V S C
The intended curriculum consists of the goals and standards for teaching and
learning in the K–12 curriculum. The review focused on the alignment between
the standards and grade-level expectations in Maryland’s V S C and the standards
and expectations that Baltimore has set forth. Researchers reviewed the most
recent iteration of the Baltimore district curriculum developed by the Office of
Curriculum and Instruction along with groups of teachers. In this review, team
members were able to examine only those portions of the curriculum that had
been completed by mid-June 2004.
Major findings from this content alignment review:
♦ The current B C P S S curriculum is an improvement over the earlier (2000) version.
This improvement is most evident in the inclusion of more complex comprehension
skills and higher expectations for student writing.
♦ There is a consistent match in topics by grade level across the V S C and the B C P S S
curricula in reading and writing. However, there is an inconsistency in the level of
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 59
“Whole performance” refers to the expectations for student performance between the V S C and the curriculum proposed
entire process of generating an for the B C P S S .
authentic piece of work; for
instance, the research, interviewing For example, the B C P S S K–5 curricula frequently emphasize the demonstration
and editing involved in developing of specific skills and strategies (e.g., suffixes and prefixes, sequencing, compare
and contrast techniques) as ends in themselves. The V S C (and to some extent the
Maryland state tests) emphasize whole 5 and complex performances (e.g., learning
how to research and write on a topic, developing and supporting a point of view
in a persuasive essay or presentation, etc.).
The researchers’ review of the draft ninth-grade units under development by the
staff and consultants at the Fund for Educational Excellence shows that they hold
promise for matching both the content and the level of performance described in
the V S C .
The Enacted Curriculum: Opportunity to Learn
To examine the alignment between the intended and the enacted curriculum,
review team members
• visited classrooms, observing students, teachers, students’ opportunity to learn,
and the overall classroom climate for learning; and
• reviewed a sample of assignments and the resulting student work.
The results of these investigations are described below.
Team members visited seven schools, interviewing the principal and key staff,
observing in two or three classrooms at different grade levels, and doing a “walk
through” of the entire building with the principal. (See Appendix 2 for the list of
school sites visited.)
♦ Students, whether struggling or currently achieving, spent little classroom time in
activities likely to increase their achievement.
Researchers gathered data on levels of student engagement for two types of stu-
dents (“currently struggling” and “currently achieving” academically) during
observations in literacy classes. (See the Framework section for details about the
student observation protocol.)
As Figure C2 indicates, currently struggling students spend nearly a third of their
time in noncompliant or disengaged behaviors (level 0: e.g., doodling, sleeping,
talking with other students) and nearly half of class time in compliant behaviors
(level 1: e.g., sitting up in a discussion, looking at the text book). Thus, approxi-
mately three-quarters of such students’ time is spent in ways that do not con-
tribute to further achievement. For the final quarter of their time, these students
are on task (level 2: e.g., copying notes from the blackboard, reading from a text-
book). While these are the most challenging students, these data suggest that vir-
Figure C2: Student Engagement in Literacy Classrooms
50% STRUGGLING ACHIEVING
40% Student 30% 1%
30% Student 43% 19%
20% Student 27% 48%
Student 1% 32%
10% engaged in
0% Student 0% 0%
STUDENT STUDENT STUDENT STUDENT STUDENT dierected
NON-COMPLIANT OBEYS ON TASK ENGAGED IN DIRECTED inquiry, rigor
DISENGAGED LEARNING INQUIRY, RIGOR
tually none of their time is spent engaged in the kinds of learning activities that
would contribute to their further achievement.
By comparison, currently achieving students spend very little of their time off-
task. But nearly 70 percent of their time is spent at levels 1 and 2. Even these stu-
dents, who are generally engaged and well behaved, spent less than a third of the
observed time engaged in activities likely to build their achievement.
There was no evidence of level 4 learning during which students were actively
generating knowledge and understanding.
♦ Most of the teachers’ instructional time was spent simply keeping students on task.
Twenty-minute observations of literacy teachers’ use of instructional time were
Figure C3: Focus of Instructional Time in Literacy Classrooms
4: Teacher facilitates authentic,
19% 3: Teacher engaged students in learning
45% 2: Teacher keeps students on task
36% 1: Teacher manages – no academic content
1% 0: Noise – no specific acitvity
50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 61
conducted in grades K–12. Figure C3 presents the distribution of observed inter-
vals coded on a five-point scale. (See the Framework section for details about the
teacher observation protocol.)
The most frequent level of whole-class instruction was 2 (Teacher keeps students
on task). The twenty-minute average scores for individual teachers revealed that
few teachers had any intervals of instruction during which they set expectations
for more than staying on task. Individual teacher average scores ranged from 1.6
to 2.5. No teachers, even those in honors classes, set expectations above a level 3.
♦ Classrooms were generally orderly, but expectations for students were low and
Literacy researchers scored their classroom environment observations on four
Figure C4: Ratings of Classrooms as Learning Environments
LEARNING CLIMATE 1.2 2.09 3.0
INFORMAL ASSESSMENT 0.5 1.33 2.4
0.14 0.91 2.3
RIGOR OR CURRICULUM 0.4 1.66 3.25
0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
dimensions: the rigor of the curriculum, the differentiation of instruction, the
quality of informal assessment and the overall climate for learning. (See the
Framework section for details about the classroom environment protocol.) Figure
C4 displays the summary findings for all the classrooms visited.
The Baltimore classrooms that researchers observed have a distinctive profile. On
average, those classrooms exhibit the following characteristics.
• There is a decent climate for learning. Classrooms are orderly and civil settings
for learning. Researchers witnessed only one serious disciplinary event, almost
no yelling, ordering, shame, or humiliation.
• In all but a few classrooms, there are low to modest expectations for students,
regardless of whether students are enrolled in grade-level or honors classes.
Classrooms are characterized by routine tasks – even when the literacy content
is inherently challenging (e.g., a Shakespeare play, Coleridge’s “Kublai Khan,”
important ideas such as abolition or democracy).
• Teachers need support to develop ongoing assessment that could help students
to improve the current quality of their work. Many teachers’ responses to stu-
dents are limited to “right” and “wrong.” Teachers do not appear to have had
much experience responding in ways that would help students improve on first
drafts. The typical “life-cycle” for a piece of work is: assignment – response –
correction/grading. There is very modest evidence for drafting, conferencing, or
editing of work to achieve a higher standard.
• Teachers also need support in order to differentiate instruction to meet the var-
ied needs and experiences of students. Materials and instruction are both
aimed at the entire class. Neither assignments nor supports are varied to insure
that the individual needs of students are met. “Currently high-achieving” stu-
dents can be as bored as those who are struggling with the content. Even
where researchers observed in-room tutors for students with significant disabil-
ities, these individuals were more likely to focus on insuring that students were
well behaved than that they had access to instruction. In many cases, a main-
streamed student was merely in the presence of appropriate instruction, with-
out the means to grasp it.
Researchers collected sample assignments and resulting student work from
schools with different performance profiles on current state assessments repre-
senting each of the seven academic areas. The assignments and student work
from grades 3 and 5, middle school, and high school were reviewed in depth and
evaluated on seven criteria (described in Appendix 9).
♦ Rigor: A majority of assignments lacked rigor or high expectations for perform-
ance; students were expected to practice skills and strategies that are typically com-
ponents of larger performances (copyediting a printed text; answering basic compre-
hension questions at the end of a story or textbook chapter; identifying the figures of
speech in a passage, etc.).
Sixth-grade students studying “fact and opinion” read a short, low-demand
paragraph about cats. They were to mark each sentence as fact or opinion.
While this can be challenging, this exercise presented students only with
simple statements (e.g., “Cats make good pets.”), none of which combined
or blurred information and point of view.
♦ Student Voice: Except in assignments for writing memoirs, students were not typi-
cally expressing student voice or agency, where their experience, funds of cultural
knowledge, or points of view mattered in a substantial way.
In a science class, fifth-grade students were reviewing their texts in prepara-
tion for a unit test on weather the following day. The teacher had provided a
list of questions (e.g., “Why is the sky blue?”). The majority of these ques-
tions were section headings in the textbook. By way of preparation, students
copied out the first paragraph under the heading that matched the question.
They explained that the questions they were working on would be exactly
what appeared on the test the following day – in the order given, no combi-
nations, and no extensions or applications.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 63
♦ Integration of Skills: Assignments were more focused on building basic skills than
on developing higher-order thinking or inferential-level understanding.
Fourth-grade students reading about the Westward Expansion were given a
list of vocabulary words that occurred in the text and assigned to look up
their definitions. Some students tried to use the glossary at the back of their
reading books, while others used simple student dictionaries from the back
of the room. Students who could manage the task copied down the word
followed by the definitions. There was no discussion of which meaning actu-
ally occurred in the text or of what the word added to students’ understand-
ing of pioneer life.
♦ Authenticity: Outside of memoirs and short poetry, none of the tasks that students
were assigned represented the kinds of whole performances that might authentically
occur in the world outside of school. Thus, students were occupied with exercises
(drills, questions at the end of the chapter, vocabulary definitions, etc.) rather than
large-scale assignments in which students had to develop ideas, read multiple
sources, develop and edit a draft, or make a presentation.
The example above about “fact and opinion” is relevant here: Students were
practicing what can be an important skill – but in isolation. They were not
reading an newspaper article on a highly charged topic. They were not
engaged in drafting their own editorials.
♦ Reflection: The major situation in which students reflected was in the course of
writing personal narratives. There was little evidence of editing beyond correction of
errors of spelling or punctuation.
Sixth-grade students were assigned to write a poem about Harriet Tubman.
They were directed to find different types of words in a literature selection
about her life to use in the poem (e.g., words that should be shouted, silly-
sounding words, words with lots of syllables, words that include z). Once
students located candidate words, they immediately incorporated them into
their poems, without any small-group or class discussion of the meanings,
connotations, or effects of those words. (A full description of this lesson
appears in Appendix 10.)
♦ Differentiation: Independent reading was the chief strategy for matching instruc-
tion to differing achievement levels and interests of students. On occasion, students
could select a topic for writing. However, researchers saw no occasions where the
directions, the supports, or the demands for an assignment were deliberately tailored
to the needs of specific students.
In a reading period, students were taking turns reading aloud from a story
about pioneer life. A young student with substantial attention problems was
part of the classroom and was accompanied by an individual tutor. Through-
out the session, the tutor sat beside the boy. When his attention drifted from
the page, the tutor physically redirected his head and eyes toward the page.
At no time did the tutor reengage the student’s mind with the text, the illus-
trations, or the emerging meaning of the selection.
♦ Growth: The majority of assignments examined were designed for a single day
rather than as longer units focused on key understandings or valued literacy per-
formances (e.g., researching and writing about a topic, conducting the study of an
author’s works) that would provide for growth in learning over time.
Only when students were completing a major piece of writing or reading a
book was there evidence of continuity over the three days of assignments.
Typically, that continuity took the form of “more” rather than “deeper.”
Thus, students read ten to fifteen “more” pages per night or continued to
write their story/essay for several days. There was no observable evidence of
sequences of assignments where each day built upon the previous day with
the goal of developing a more complex understanding of a work or concept.
The Assessed Curriculum: What Constitutes “Good Work”
The preceding review of the sample of the literacy assignments showed that for
the majority of assignments, students were engaged in routine practice rather
than in challenging assignments. Students were most challenged when practicing
brief constructed responses (B C R s) and extended constructed responses (E C R s),
both of which are an integral part of the state tests.
Based on the entire sample of literacy assignments, researchers examined how
teachers evaluated student work.
♦ Rubrics were rarely aligned to state standards.
Even in the case of the B C R s and E C R s, there was infrequent evidence of teachers
using rubrics aligned to the state standards. In addition, the levels assigned to the
work were frequently inflated (e.g., students were awarded a 3 or 4, when the
work was more accurately at level 2).
♦ Attention focused on errors rather than on larger aspects of literacy.
On a substantial amount of the student work, teachers corrected errors but did
not attend to the way in which students were expressing their ideas (missing
words, incomplete sentences, etc.).
♦ Teachers provided little useful feedback.
There were few comments to students that would support them in improving the
overall quality of their written work (organization, ideas, use of sources, etc.).
♦ Grades were based almost entirely on facts rather than higher-order thinking.
The bulk of the assignments were given a point score, with points subtracted for
spelling, grammar, and incorrect answers. As a result, the majority of students’
grades were derived from the total number of items correct (e.g., identifying
seven out of ten statements that were facts rather than opinions; placing six of six
sentences in the correct order to tell a coherent story).
In order to respond to student work in this manner, teachers have to assign stu-
dents series of discrete items. A steady diet of these item types means that stu-
dents are not engaging with the kinds of extended or multiple texts that are nec-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 65
essary to develop sophisticated forms of literacy. Consequently, there is a signifi-
cant mismatch between the assessment messages that students receive in their
classrooms and the messages they receive from the Maryland state tests. It is
likely that students who are receiving As and Bs, 90s and 80s, in class (and likely
on their report cards) may fall below “proficient” on the state exam. Where high
stakes for students (like promotion to the next grade or graduation into or out of
high school) depend on state test scores, this is a cruel mismatch. For example, a
middle school student and her family could believe from her school assessments
that she is succeeding academically, only to find out that she has performed so
poorly on the state exam that she is not a competitive candidate for the city’s
selective high schools.
Recommendations for Improving Teaching and Learning
The mismatch between the intended, the enacted, and the assessed curriculum
has serious consequences for the majority of Baltimore students. But for those
students with the greatest needs, it borders on violating the state’s guarantee of a
free and adequate education. An eighth-grader who cannot read his textbooks
does not have access to the curriculum. A tenth-grader with special needs who
has the support to behave but not to learn is equally in danger of never having
the education promised to every Maryland citizen.
To rectify this situation the district will need to:
♦ Complete, publish, and implement a K–12 curriculum framework for literacy.
The Fund for Educational Excellence has supported work on a framework with
external consultants and Baltimore teachers. If this framework is to make a sub-
stantive contribution, it must be shared and used beginning in fall 2004. Its align-
ment to the V S C must be clear. Similarly, its relation to existing texts and pro-
grams must also be clear. It should be illustrated with teacher and student work
collected from B C P S S so that expectations are absolutely clear.
In addition to setting clear expectations for students and teachers, the framework
must emphasize the importance of student engagement, the funds of knowledge
that students bring from their home cultures, and students as creators of
Neither the V S C nor the B C P SS curriculum materials currently extend beyond
eighth grade. This raises a serious question about whether teachers, or the district
as a whole, have a clear sense of the outcomes toward which earlier-grade curric-
ula have to lead. Given that over half of tenth-graders are reading at only the
basic level, this is a major cause for concern.
Rather than a sequence of particulars (e.g., work with suffixes and prefixes, com-
pare and contrast) as in the current (May 2004) B C P S S curriculum, the curricu-
lum should lay out the sequence of major literacy goals that students need to
attain K–12. The literacy team has developed a chart outlining such a sequence
(see Appendix 11). Sequential reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills for
grades three to five might expect students to
• give oral reports, individually and in groups
• learn about the formal structure of language, like rhyme and rhythm
• explore the structure of books and analyze characters, setting, and details
• write complex stories using principles they learned in earlier grades
• write for many purposes: fiction, poetry, reports and personal narratives
♦ Hire a director of literacy with responsibility for the design and implementation
of pre-K–12 curriculum in reading, writing, media, and cross-disciplinary literacies
(e.g., reading in science, social studies).
Initially, the district may need to hire an experienced individual to consult with
the district. However, over the long term, this position must belong to a full-time
employee of B C P SS who knows or comes to know the city’s educators, students,
families, and schools.
♦ Reduce the number of competing literacy models across the district, particularly in
The district, through its new Director of Literacy and the new curriculum frame-
works, needs to find a way to integrate the “genius” of the direct-instruction and
constructivist approaches to literacy, especially in reading. Neither one should be
♦ Develop a set of “anchor” instructional units 6 that model strong literacy
instruction, formative assessment, and support for differentiated teaching.
These units could be modeled on (or borrowed from) districts using similar
strategies. 7 They should be taught in the fall and spring at key grades, based on
focused professional development and training of coaches. In this way, teachers “Anchor” unit refers to a well-
designed, standards-based unit of
can develop and calibrate their expectations by examining the resulting student instruction that is embedded in each
work. Tying the work of literacy coaches to these anchor units twice annually reporting period. All the teachers
creates an opportunity to focus and calibrate the work of the individuals who and coaches work on it and analyze
the effects on student achievement.
are training and supporting literacy teachers. In addition, the district should
• Develop anchor units in other subject areas where literacy is key to student Other urban districts seeking to
develop coherent approaches to
achievement (e.g., solving math word problems, reading and understanding
improving student achievement have
documents in history). gone this route. Some draw on the
• Use the anchor units to calibrate classroom assessments and grades to the levels work of organizations such as the
Institute for Learning at the University
on the Maryland State Department of Education tests (students should not be of Pittsburgh or the National Center
doing well in class and failing on external measures). for Education and the Economy.
Other districts have developed and
♦ Ensure that the professional development opportunities for teachers, coaches, and refined their own units: Pittsburgh
principals are aligned with the V S C and the B C P S S curriculum framework and with and Humanitas in Los Angeles in the
each other. 90s, currently Providence, RI. In Balti-
more, the Fund for Educational Excel-
The design of professional development must be based on a careful analysis of the lence is proposing to do this kind for
skills and understandings that Baltimore students need to enhance their literacy. work at both middle and high school.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 67
(See the professional development review for further recommendations.) Profes-
sional development must include:
• teacher collaboration within and across grade levels;
• training for A A O s and central office staff in classroom observations and walk-
• professional development as a leverage point to ensure alignment and consis-
tency in expectations for student achievement.
♦ Develop a unified approach to literacy coaching that is shared across academic
areas of the district, grades K–12, and different subject-matter areas (e.g., reading
and writing in science).
The substantial investment B C P SS has made in coaching is well intentioned but
likely to fail if these individuals are not recruited, trained, and deployed strategi-
cally. What is needed is a system that focuses resources where they are most
likely to improve student learning (Appendix 12 contains detailed recommenda-
tions for a coaching model). The system for coaching should be consistent with
the recommendations outlined in the professional development review.
The Mathematics Curriculum Review
The enacted and assessed mathematics curriculum needs more
focus on higher-level mathematical reasoning and differing
While some mathematics classes in B C P SS are well taught and at least moderately
challenging, the mathematics curriculum, as widely enacted and assessed, needs
to be more rigorous, more attentive to opportunities to develop mathematical
thinking and processes, and more student-centered. Mathematics teachers need
ongoing support in professional knowledge building and improvement of prac-
tice. This is particularly the case with developing strategies that address students
with special needs, either for support or challenge.
Contemporary reviews of mathematics teaching have outlined a set of major chal-
lenges. These include developing an approach to mathematics teaching that is:
• responsible for basic skills but which does not make those skills gatekeepers
for access to all other forms of mathematical thinking;
• focused on the deep understanding of mathematically powerful concepts (func-
tions, probability, modeling of complex phenomena, etc.);
• well articulated from pre-K through grade 12 so that students have the oppor-
tunity to develop complex concepts (such as those in algebra) over a sustained
period of time;
• inclusive of alternative and accelerated routes to understanding, rather than
• clear about the importance of mathematical communication, both oral and
• integrated into other areas of the curriculum so that students come to see the
power of mathematics in many settings (e.g., data in science experiments,
quantitative models of phenomena in history such as immigration, industrial-
These features are important to the success of all learners. But they are especially
important in settings where students may be the first ones in their families to
pursue more than practical arithmetic, have a history of uneven instruction,
and/or need to “recover” from difficult encounters with formal mathematics in
courses like algebra.
The following sections present findings about the quality and coherence of math-
ematics instruction in B C P SS classrooms in the first four of these areas and out-
line specific recommendations to strengthen mathematics teaching and learning.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 69
The overall purpose of these sections is to highlight characteristic patterns in cur-
rent teaching and learning in mathematics, serious problems demanding immedi-
ate attention, and assets and promising practices that could serve as resources for
The Intended Curriculum: Alignment between the B C P S S
Curriculum and the Voluntary State Curriculum
Passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, with its expectation for all stu-
dents to be proficient by 2014, means that students across all subgroups (race,
class, gender, disability status) must make significant progress in the next decade.
Because the measure of this progress is student scores on the Maryland State
Assessment, it is vital that the standards and curriculum frameworks used in Bal-
timore schools, the district, and the state align so that clear and common high
expectations are set for all teachers and students.
Examining alignment in the intended mathematics curriculum involved review-
ing documents such as state and district curriculum frameworks. The most recent
iteration of the Baltimore district curriculum has been developed by the Office of
Curriculum and Instruction, working with groups of teachers. For this review,
team members were able to examine only those portions of the curriculum that
had been completed by mid-June 2004.
♦ The K–5 mathematics curriculum (2004) revealed significant improvement over
The strengths of this iteration of the curriculum include increased alignment with
the Voluntary State Curriculum (V S C ) in these areas:
• six content standards and four process standards;
• the B C P SS big ideas as grade-level standards, and the B C P SS instructional
objectives as grade-level indicators;
• a common coding system for the big ideas and objectives;
For example, instructional objective 3.3C.2.a is a third-grade objective (3.)
addressing the measurement standard, Standard 3, with the topic of applica-
tions in measurement (3C.); it addresses the second indicator for this topic,
calculating equivalent measurements (2.), and the objective (a) is to deter-
mine equivalent units of length.
• the inclusion of assessment limits.
In the case of objective 3.3C.2.a, the assessment limit is “Use of 12 inches =
1 foot and 3 feet = 1 yard and whole numbers (0–30).”
The revised district K–5 curriculum is potentially more useful than the previous
curriculum because it includes suggestions for daily and long-range planning of
instruction, suggested lesson and homework formats, and units of instruction
that include sample tasks and applicable resources (e.g., pages within the mathe-
matics textbook, readings beyond the textbook related to the content, and the
URLs of Web-based resources).
♦ The middle-grades curriculum is a vast improvement over previous curriculum
guides for grades six through eight.
A review of the middle-grades curriculum materials (which are largely still under
development) revealed many of the features that are found in the newest K–5
materials. These features bring the middle-grades curriculum into greater align-
ment with the V S C . Other significant improvements include the presentation of
sample tasks and applicable resources to supplement grade-level mathematics
♦ There is an urgent need at the high school level for both student materials and
professional development designed to accelerate (not remediate) the mathematics
learning of students.
There was little high school material available for review, and no indication that
these materials would be available for the 2004–2005 academic year. Given the
current level of mathematics performance, which declines sharply from kinder-
garten through high school, this is a matter for considerable concern. Many
Baltimore students have had virtually no opportunities to develop their quantita-
tive thinking past the level of long division, basic word problems, and simple
♦ The Elementary Curriculum-Writing Project directly aligns with both the Maryland
Mathematics Content Standards (in grades 3 and 5) and the V S C , although it does
not follow the state coding for standards, topics, indicators, and objectives.
A thorough review of the recent Baltimore curriculum project’s units of instruc-
tion for mathematics in K–5 and 6–8 was carried out. It sequences the big ideas
and instructional objectives across the K-5 mathematics learning continuum, and
the action statements for each standard and big idea are well written and will
help teachers to develop understanding of these standards, although the presenta-
tion by grade in lists of topics is cumbersome and repetitive. Long-range planning
topics are presented grade by grade and the lesson format follows what research
has shown to be effective mathematics teaching. The importance of assessment is
noted, but no assessment tasks or examples are included and there is no clear
suggestion for the use of assessment data for instructional planning. The compre-
hensive units of instruction for each grade, each intended to focus on one big
idea in mathematics, vary widely in their quality; teachers will need to exercise
flexibility in both the pacing and sequencing to meet the instructional needs of
the full range of students in their classes. (The complete report appears in see
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 71
The Enacted Curriculum: Opportunity to Learn
Articulated standards and high expectations are hollow slogans unless they moti-
vate and inform the teaching and learning that occurs daily in classrooms
throughout a district. To examine the alignment between the intended and the
enacted curriculum, observation team members:
• visited classrooms, observing students, teachers, students’ opportunity to learn,
and the overall classroom climate for learning; and
• reviewed a sample of assignments and the resulting student work.
The results of these investigations are described below.
For this segment of the review, the mathematics observation team visited twenty-
nine classrooms, from kindergarten through grade eleven, in thirteen schools in
order to develop a deeper understanding of concrete opportunity to learn. (See
the Framework section for details about the observation protocols.)
♦ Students were typically “on task,” but in only a few instances were students taking
responsibility for the direction of their own learning.
The team observed forty-two students in grades K–12 for engagement in learning.
The students were typically rated as “on task” (the overall average score for the
coded increments was 1.84; individual scores ranged from .3 to 3.3; see Figure
C5). Thus, they were practicing familiar routines and repeating familiar problem-
solving tasks, reviewing assignments, reading text as directed by the teacher,
copying notes posted by the teacher, and following directives regarding behavior,
classroom routines, and the organization of study materials. Only nineteen of the
students encountered a more challenging (and rewarding) math curriculum (i.e.,
their average scores were equal to or greater than 2). In only one of these cases
was the average score greater than 3.
Figure C5: Modal Frequencies for Student Observations
17 4: Student-directed inquiry, rigor
97 3: Student engaged in learning
168 2: Student on task
78 1: Student obeys
60 0: Student non-compliant,disengaged
200 150 100 50 0
♦ Teachers spent most of their time keeping students on task (directing group work 8
Coding was not done for one class
on familiar topics, correcting assignments, prompting responses to previously in which, during the observation
period, students were working indi-
vidually on review and test prepara-
Observations were completed for how twenty-eight teachers in grades K–12 used tion, and there was very little
instructional time. 8 Nineteen of the teachers had average scores of equal to or teacher-student interaction.
greater than 2 and the scores ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 (the overall average for the
274 coded increments was 2.09; see Figure C-6). Thus, teachers spent most of
their time directing group work or discussion on familiar topics, assigning indi-
vidual review and practice, reviewing and correcting assignments, prompting stu-
dents to recite/recall previously learned content, reading to students, and prepar-
ing for instruction by reorganizing the classroom or directing students in the
organization of study materials. Most of the teachers who were observed engaging
students in learning – helping them see the relevance of their work, referring to
previous lessons in a purposeful way while introducing new content, facilitating
the collective sharing of ideas – were in classes designated as advanced, honors,
Figure C6: Modal Frequencies for Teacher Observations
4: Teacher facilitates authentic,
57 3: Teacher engaged students in learning
188 2: Teacher keeps students on task
27 1: Teacher manages – no academic content
2 0: Noise – no specific acitvity
200 150 100 50 0
♦ Most classrooms offer a positive learning environment but do not support rigorous
The classroom observations for learning environment were evaluated on four cri-
teria (see Appendix 8). The findings are depicted in Figure C7. (The results were
based on a five-point scale, from 0 to 4, with 4 being the highest.)
• There is little evidence of rigor in math instruction in most classrooms, but
there are important exceptions. The overall average score for the twenty-eight
classrooms was 1.51. An examination of the average scores for individual class-
rooms revealed that for five of twenty-eight classrooms the score was equal
to or greater than 2. With one exception, those classes were all identified as
advanced, honors, or classes for gifted students. The scores ranged from 0.6
• There were few instances of varied or differentiated instruction. The overall
average score for the twenty-eight classrooms was 1.80. An examination of the
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 73
average scores for individual classrooms revealed that for 10 of 28 classrooms
the score was equal to or greater than 2. The scores ranged from 1.0 to 2.83.
• Monitoring of student progress was infrequent. Ongoing assessment of student
work/behavior was the criterion most closely grouped around the average,
which was relatively low (1.9). An examination of the average scores for indi-
vidual classrooms revealed that for seventeen of the twenty-eight classrooms
the score was equal to or greater than 2 (the overall average score for the
twenty-eight classrooms was 1.90; the scores ranged from 1.0 to 2.60).
• The climate for learning and student/teacher interactions shows promise. Posi-
tive climate for learning was the criterion with the highest average score, high-
est number of scores over 2, and highest individual classroom score. An exami-
nation of the average scores for individual classrooms revealed that for twenty-
four of the twenty-eight classrooms the score was equal to or greater than 2
(the overall average score for the twenty-eight classrooms was 2.49; the scores
ranged from 1.5 to 3.5).
Figure C7: Average Class Score on Four Learning Environment Criteria
LEARNING CLIMATE 1.5 2.49 3.5
INFORMAL ASSESSMENT 1.0 1.90 2.6
VARIED/DIFFERENTIATED 1.0 1.80 2.83
RIGOR OR CURRICULUM 0.6 1.51 3.17
0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
From materials submitted by schools responding to the request, researchers
selected assignments for close examination from sites with a range of perform-
ances on the mathemat-
ics portion of the 2004 Figure C8: School Assignments Selected for Close
Examination Based on Percentages of Students Scoring
Maryland State Assess- Proficient 2004 Mathematics MSA
ment, as well as both a
comprehensive and a SCHOOL CODE GRADE 3 GRADE 5 GRADE 8 GRADE 9–12
citywide high school ES1 28.8 9.9
(see Figure C8). ES2 52.8 45.8
ES3 59.0 71.0
Using the dimensions E/M 68.8 15.6 27.5
described in the Frame- MS1 11.0
work section and in MS2 22.2
Appendix 9, team members reviewed the submitted assignments using the follow-
ing seven criteria.
♦ Rigor: While some teachers have a strong grasp of mathematical content and set
high standards for their students, the bulk of the assignments in Baltimore classrooms
did not offer this level of challenge.
The team considered the following example of a challenging assignment:
In a third-grade classroom, students completed the final activity for the
probability unit: determining the fairness of a game using a four-section
spinner for two players. “Player 1 wins a point if the number is greater than
3 and Player 2 wins a point if the number is less than three.” If students
found the game to be unfair, they were to suggest a change in the design of
the game to make it fair. Students played the game, filled in tally charts, and
examined the evidence in order to draw conclusions.
However, typical assignments engaged students in the routine practice of basic
skills (see Appendix 14 for an example of student work on such an assignment).
♦ Student voice and agency: Students showed evidence of being able to explain
their thinking in their own language.
In a fifth-grade classroom, students worked on an assignment that called for
explanations of their mathematical thinking. Students were asked to write the
steps needed to find the circumference of a circle and then show an example
using a diameter of 13 centimeters. All the students sampled could respond suc-
cessfully, and they did so using their own language to capture their thinking.
“My steps are when they give you a radius number you can multiply 2X
your radius and get your diameter. And the diameter X p i and pi is 3.14 and
you will get your circumference. And if they give you a diameter all you do
is times it by p i and you will get your circumference.”
“To find circumference of a circle you have to multiply your diameter X p i
and p i is = to 3.14. So you multiply 3.14 X diameter. If they give you a
radius, instead of a diameter, you have to multiply your radius X 2 X 3.14.
This is how you find your circumference.”
“To find circumference (distance around the circle) you have to multiply
3.14 X diameter.”
♦ Integration of skills and understanding: Even students who correctly solved prob-
lems did not show clear understanding of underlying principles.
The assignments showed an uneven integration of basic skills and mathematical
understanding. For example, in an eighth-grade class students were given several
decimal and whole-number word problems.
George is given $5 more allowance than Nick each week. They each spend
$12 per week and save the rest. While George saves $60, Nick saves $20.
How much allowance does each get per week?
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 75
Even among students who got the answers “right,” no one organized the informa-
tion carefully, labeled quantities (e.g., weeks), or was careful with math notation
(e.g., dollar costs were written as whole numbers followed by fractions rather
than as decimals).
♦ Authenticity: Most assignments were “textbook” rather than “real-world.”
The majority of math assignments were “straight out of the book” exercises. Very
few problems involved students in selecting relevant information, applying infor-
mation to “noisy” real-world settings, or making the kinds of choices that charac-
terize mathematics in the real world. At most, students in higher-performing
classrooms, such as citywide precalculus, grappled with problems like this one:
An engineer stands 50 feet away from a building and sights the top of the
building with a surveying device mounted on a tripod. If the surveying
device is five feet above the ground and the angle of elevation is 50 degrees,
how tall is the building?
In other cases, while real-world objects and situations were alluded to, the exam-
ples were unrealistic or trivial.
♦ Reflection: Most students did not respond to teachers’ questions asking them to
reflect on what they were learning.
Across the samples and grades, many teachers asked students to communicate
their mathematical thinking. For instance, students in one class were asked to
provide the formula for finding the area of a triangle and to explain why the for-
mula for the area of a triangle should be valid. However, significant numbers of
students did not respond to this type of question or did so in a cursory or partial
manner. Moreover, teachers often did not respond to student writing. They did
not correct errors or pose further questions, thereby canceling out much of the
purpose of engaging students in this kind of activity. (For example, in a geometry
lesson, students confused terms such as height, width, circumference, etc.)
♦ Differentiation: The same assignment was typically given to all students, regard-
less of their mathematical proficiency.
Students in Baltimore classrooms display wide-ranging levels of current achieve-
ment. To reach the full range of students, teachers must be able to design differ-
entiated assignments that provide access to key skills and concepts. Few of the
assignments lived up to this expectation. Typically, the identical assignment was
given to all students, regardless of their grasp of the mathematics involved, reach-
ing only the students in the midrange.
Nonetheless, the sample contained instances of skillful differentiation. Three
examples from one third-grade classroom demonstrate that it is possible to vary
the problems as well as the requests for mathematical communication, while
keeping a classroom of students engaged with a common topic (see Appendix 15
for examples of differentiated student work). These assignments all addressed the
same topic (patterning and relationships), encouraged high-order thinking on the
topic, and asked students to explain their strategies. However, the particular prob-
lems assigned and the wording of the assignments were tailored to three achieve-
ment levels: low-perf o rming, moderately perf o rming, and high-perf o rm i n g .
Teachers who have developed the skill of differentiation are valuable assets to the
district. Their classrooms are worth studying and visiting.
♦ Growth over time: Students need assignments that develop increasingly complex
skills over the course of several days.
In order for students to reach high standards, they must engage in increasingly
demanding assignments that build on one another. In many of the series of assign-
ments reviewed, students worked on the same or similar topics over the three
days sampled. By comparison, students in a fifth-grade class worked on problems
computing area and/or perimeter of rectangles and squares on day 1, right trian-
gles on day 2, parallelograms on day 3. While this is not a particularly strong
series of assignments in terms of challenging students to apply and extend their
understanding, the students were re q u i red to use algorithms that were more com-
plex and less intuitive each day. Baltimore students must encounter at least this
kind of increasing demand if they are going to develop as young mathematicians.
The Assessed Curriculum: What Constitutes “Good Work”
In order for students to be learning consistent lessons about what constitutes
good work and what qualities to strive for, it is critical for classroom (formative)
assessment to be aligned to large-scale (summative) forms of assessment. The
review of the assessed mathematics curriculum for this type of alignment
includes analyzing samples of graded student work to determine what messages
students received about what constitutes excellence, by examining:
• mode of response (grades, percent scores, rubric scores, comments, etc.);
• accuracy of response (were inventive solutions understood, were errors in
thinking identified, did comments challenge students to develop their think-
• alignment to state rubrics defining excellence (the degree of match between
Maryland’s standards of excellence and the standards set for classroom work).
♦ Most of the assignments reflected the intended curriculum, both in content and
timing in the school year.
This alignment was most easily seen in the K–8 assignments, although some of
the high school assignments clearly reflected the core learning goals for high
One cause for concern is the minimal evidence of particular attention being paid
to the quality of student problem solving and writing beyond arriving at the cor-
rect or incorrect answers. Many of the assignments submitted for review had not
been graded. Those on which the teachers had made comments about the stu-
dents’ work or had attached a grade paid little attention to student explanations
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 77
of mathematical concepts or problem-solving processes (or even about the cor-
rectness or precision of the language used in discussing the math concepts). For
In a fifth-grade class, the teacher assigned a word problem and asked stu-
dents to explain their solution in numbers, pictures, or words. “Linda said
that 1/5 of the 30 penguins were sleeping. Jane then said that 1/2 of the
sleeping penguins were on the rocks. How many penguins were sleeping on
the rocks?” All three students arrived at the correct answer. However, none
of them used correct and precise mathematical language about the processes
they used to arrive at the answer. Student 1: “multiplied 1/5 of 30 and I
divided 5 X 30 = 6.” Student 2: “divided 5 by 30 . . . so 2 [division sign] 6
= 3 penguins sleeping.” Student 3: “I know that I need to find 1/5 of 30. If I
divide 30 into 5, I will get 6 penguins.”
♦ While some teachers use aligned rubrics, most assignments were scored on the
number of right answers, with little supporting comment.
In reviewing the samples of graded student work, team members found that,
overall, students were engaged in routine practice rather than challenging mathe-
matical assignments. With that as background, team members examined the man-
ner in which teachers evaluated student work. Among the assignments collected,
there was some evidence of teachers using rubrics aligned to the state standards,
written in language accessible even to young students, as illustrated in Figure C9.
Figure C9: A Math Problem-Solving Rubric Aligned to State Standards
4 Exceeds • I understood the problem and the facts
• I chose the correct strategy
• I solved the problem correctly
• I labeled, explained, and wrote a complete answer sentence
3 Meets • I understood the problem and the facts
Proficient • I chose the correct strategy
• I solved the problem correctly
• I wrote an answer sentence
2 Nearly • I understood the problem and the facts
Meets Basic • I did not use the strategy correctly
• I did not solve the problem correctly
• I wrote an incomplete or incorrect answer sentence
1 Needs • I did not complete the problem
Reteaching • I did not understand the problem
However, in the majority of collected samples:
• Scoring of student work was based on numbers of correct answers, with no
additional response to students.
• There was little attention paid to the students’ reasoning or to their ability to
communicate mathematical thinking through charts, diagrams, or writing.
• Where they occurred, comments were limited to fixed phrases (e.g., “Keep up
the good work.”).
• There was very little use of rubrics or other scoring systems explicitly tied to
the state’s standards. (This is exacerbated by the basic-skills nature of the math
• High scores or grades were assigned to answers that were basic or mediocre.
In addition, there were a number of cases in which teachers failed to catch mis-
understandings (i.e., conceptual difficulties, not simply calculation errors). There
are also instances where teachers provided students with misleading or incorrect
feedback. For example:
“For quality control, a light-bulb company conducted a random sampling of
their light bulbs, finding 4 to be defective and 96 nondefective. The light-
bulb company makes 6,000 light bulbs in a day. Based on this sample, how
many defective light bulbs can the company expect to make in a day?”
This assignment was graded on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 4. One student, who
received a grade of 4, wrote “4 out of 100 is = to 240 out of 6000.” Another
student, who received a grade of 3, selected 2,400 as the answer. On this stu-
dent’s paper, the teacher wrote “essentially correct” and wrote the propor-
tional relationship that could be used to find the solution: 4/100 =?/6000.
The student had performed several computations using 1,000 rather than
While the rubric used in grading this assignment was not included with the
materials researchers received, it would be unusual for a 4-point rubric to desig-
nate as “3” a solution that includes an incorrect answer. This pattern of findings,
particularly in light of the classroom observations discussed above, points to a
substantial need for professional development in mathematics at all grade levels.
Further, these data point out that diagnosing student understanding and respond-
ing to student work are important and necessary parts of that professional devel-
The sample also suggests that there may be problems with the consistency (or at
least the transparency) of responses to student work. By way of illustration:
One ninth-grade classroom assignment consisted of an open-ended question
that involved writing equations to describe charges to build a bicycle in x
days, comparing two bicycle shops. All three students wrote the correct
equations and arrived at the correct answer. Two of the students received a
grade of 4 and one a grade of 3, with no indication of what was lacking in
the third student’s response.
Recommendations for Improving Teaching and Learning in
The classes observed displayed consistency in routines and structures. In most
cases, materials seemed to be sufficient. (Some schools have outdated texts that
may present difficulties in aligning instruction with the V S C and with the B C P S S
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 79
curriculum currently in development.) By and large, the learning environments
were orderly and civil, making teaching and learning possible. In few instances,
observers saw strong classroom teaching that was sharply focused on students’
current levels of understanding and challenged them to go further.
However, with the exception of honors or advanced classes and assignments,
there was little evidence of high expectations for student achievement. This was
compounded by patterns of responding to student work that rewarded students
for levels of achievement they had not attained.
To address these deficiencies in the mathematics curriculum, Baltimore educators
♦ Provide greater support for mathematical understanding.
Some teachers have already incorporated the language and thinking of mathemat-
ics into their instruction.
In a fifth-grade all-girls class, students were developing tree diagrams to dis-
play the outcomes of a probability experiment (flipping disks that were red
on one side, yellow on the other). While the experiment was not particularly
sophisticated or challenging for grade 5 students, the manner in which the
students discussed their findings, as well as predictions based on their find-
ings, reflected legitimate accountable talk. Students listened attentively to
their classmates, articulated support for what they had heard, or suggested,
in respectful ways, alternative interpretations or, in their language, “hypothe-
ses.” The teacher consistently encouraged active student inquiry and discus-
sion. The teacher reserved one-third of the time allotted to an activity for
purposes of discussion, indicating the value that should be placed on oppor-
tunities for students to share their learning discoveries, to express their
However, the majority of schools placed too little emphasis on the process stan-
dards that focus on developing mathematical understanding and communication.
Several of the principals and teachers interviewed by the observation team
expressed concern about ways in which an emphasis on state testing may nega-
tively affect the pace and quality of instruction. A great deal of content is covered,
but very quickly and very generally. As a result, there is little time for reflection
or inquiry, a necessary component of genuine mathematics learning.
♦ Develop student voice.
There was a strong emphasis on the teacher’s voice in virtually all classes. While
grouping and collaborative learning strategies were employed and, in some cases,
students were required to share and explain their approaches to solving problems,
the teacher remains by far the strongest and most consistent voice in the class-
room. Where there was strong student voice, students displayed confidence in
In a second-grade class, students were working on math journal entries writ-
ten in response to the prompt, “To solve this problem, I would ___.” The
teacher used an overhead projector to display a journal entry that had been
transferred to a transparency. Several students offered support for the posted
response, confirming that it was correct. During this classroom observation,
students were given many opportunities to develop familiarity with the lan-
guage of mathematics; they identified math terms that corresponded to the
teacher’s description of math operations or roles of numbers/quantities, they
“advised” the teacher on how to solve word problems involving the times
spent on various activities in the course of a day, and they found examples of
word cues or questions that signaled the need for performing one or more
operations. After having worked through the problem with the teacher, the
students worked in groups of three or four to solve another multistep prob-
lem. The teacher reminded them to be certain that every member of their
group had an opportunity to suggest ways to solve the problem. The groups
then transferred their solutions to overhead transparencies and to chart
paper to prepare for presentations to the rest of the class. In all of the class-
room activities observed, the teacher adeptly encouraged student voice and
active inquiry, and the students in this class displayed both engagement
in problem solving and enthusiasm for communicating what they had
♦ Set higher expectations for student achievement.
Given identical mathematical content and the same grade level, the tasks and
materials in various classrooms ranged from very simple to more complex and
engaging. In general, there was very little differentiation of instruction. Few
teachers facilitated independent student inquiry or communicated to their stu-
dents that the work would prepare them for future studies. The classrooms in
which the observation team found explicit expressions of high expectations
included those where student voice was relatively strong and where students
demonstrated the ability, at least in part, to direct their own learning.
In an eighth-grade class, students were working on a drill involving finding
the perimeters of regular polygons. One student organized the sharing of
work by asking for four volunteers and assigning blackboard space for each
of their solutions. In reviewing the solutions, the teacher required each stu-
dent to explain the thinking that they had used in arriving at an answer. In
some cases, other students would question the method shown or help in
explaining why the solution was correct. Again, there was a focus on using
correct terminology and notation. For example, in responding to the
teacher’s question about how one would find the perimeter of a rectangle,
one student suggested “adding the lengths of the sides: a + b + c + d.” The
teacher replied, “Let’s think about that. That notation would mean that you
have four different numbers or lengths of sides.” The teacher then pointed to
a poster displaying the formula for the perimeter of a rectangle and said,
“There’s a reminder. Now I want you to be looking at everything on the
board to be able to tell us what’s wrong or what could be done differently.”
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 81
In this classroom, the teacher frequently interjected comments about the impor-
tance of the work that the students were doing and the need for looking critically
at each other’s work and for using precise mathematical language. She spoke with
them of the expectations that their future high school teachers would have for
their performance in mastering some important fundamentals (e.g., order of oper-
ations and math notation). The teacher frequently acknowledged those who were
carrying out the responsibilities of students who are serious about learning and
consistently reinforced the notion that these students could and would succeed.
♦ Create and sustain professional learning communities.
Across schools, the observation team found substantial inconsistency in support
for adult learning. The emphasis of the school as a community of learners was
evident in a handful of schools, where it permeated all school operations. In such
schools, the leadership respected teachers as professionals; supported staff ideas
and adult learning; sought external partners, both for professional learning and
for school community development; encouraged team teaching, collaboration,
and classroom transparency; used data to inform school-improvement decisions;
and accepted no excuses for student failure. There is a missed opportunity to
learn from these schools – both within and across instructional areas.
♦ Engage in focused professional learning.
Based on school visits, classroom observations, and the examination of student
assignments, the observation team identified several areas of professional devel-
opment that must be provided for teachers and principals. Teachers at all grade
levels must have opportunities to improve their practice with respect to differenti-
ating instruction and assessment in order to optimize learning opportunities for
every student. Also, many of the classroom lessons observed seemed to place rela-
tively little emphasis on the process standards. Teachers must engage in profes-
sional learning that focuses on the incorporation of oral and written communica-
tion in the study of mathematics and on methods of instruction and assessment
that guide students in improving their communication, reflection, and metacogni-
tion. All school-based educators must have opportunities to acquire the skills and
practices needed in developing collaborative learning communities – methods for
observing, analyzing, and communicating, openly and honestly, about school data
and teacher and student work.
Addendum to the Curriculum Review:
The Extended Curriculum
Over the past few decades, educators and other urban leaders have begun to
understand that the overall education and development of youth is not the sole
purview of the schools. The curriculum review research team concurs with recent
and growing evidence that schools and school systems, by themselves, cannot be
expected to provide all the services and supports that students need.
We therefore offer this addendum to our review of the intended, enacted, and
assessed curriculum, in which we discuss a fourth aspect of curriculum, the
extended curriculum, which consists of out-of-school learning opportunities such
as tutoring, mentoring, after-school programs, and apprenticeships. While it is
not part of the formal district curriculum structure, the extended curriculum can
significantly support and enhance the work of the formal curriculum.
The extended curriculum should provide opportunities for students to deepen
and personalize their learning, enabling them to grow and develop as learners.
Whether formal or informal, these activities should provide multiple pathways to
development and ways to equalize opportunities and results for students.
Many cities across the nation are trying out a range of approaches to support
youth development and academic achievement through extended learning oppor-
tunities. Extended opportunities can be defined as the formal and informal expe-
riences, environments, and activities that foster learning and development in a
variety of settings outside the classroom. Extended opportunities offer the possi-
bility for success and achievement in a wider range of outcomes than is possible
in the classroom, as well as to the full range of students, including those who
struggle in more traditional settings.
Some promising extended learning programs are:
• Community Covenants (Durham, NC; Birmingham, AL)
• Parent Coordinators (New York City)
• Parents as Teachers (St. Louis)
• Parent Leadership Training Institute (Stamford/Hartford, CT)
• Harlem Children’s Zone (New York City)
• Maryland Parent Leadership Institute
• Afterschool Alliance (Providence, RI)
• Linking Education Reform and Community Development (Chicago Mid-South)
These approaches include developing incentives for innovation, offering addi-
tional support to successful existing efforts, and creating multiple forms of learn-
ing opportunities and development (academic, social, civic, vocational/career,
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 83
Extended Learning in Baltimore
A number of similar projects are under way in Baltimore to provide foundations
upon which students and families can build success. The efforts in Baltimore
include, but are not limited to, the work of:
• Baltimore’s After-School Strategy (B O O S T )
• B . U . I . L . D . – Child First – nine schools
• Twenty-first Century Community Learning Centers
• Boys and Girls Club
• Institute for Urban Research – Morgan State University
• Center for Summer Learning – Johns Hopkins University
• National Network of Partnership Schools – Johns Hopkins University
• Y U H I P (Youth Urban Health Information Project)
• Family League of Baltimore City
While each of these groups has something substantive to add to student success
and achievement, the relationships between the projects have been somewhat
underdeveloped and, therefore, disconnected from one another and from the bulk
of Baltimore children and families. While stand-alone groups and programs offer
a strong and valuable foundation to further youth development, their true poten-
tial strength lies in the cumulative effect that only a well-coordinated effort can
achieve and sustain. An intentional and flexible network of extended learning
opportunities can offer a variety of options to a wide range of students that can
significantly impact their lives.
Recommendations for Promoting an Extended Curriculum
♦ Create a citywide map of extended learning resources for pre-K–12 students.
The construction of extended learning opportunities requires an interconnected
vision of not only outcomes, but also of the means by which those outcomes
can be achieved. Transitions from childhood to adulthood and from the world
of the school to the world of adult work and civic life are reflected in programs
that meet the needs of young people through effective supports and learning
♦ Identify areas of greatest need in consultation with A A O s and principals.
Technology such as asset mapping and Geographic Information Systems mapping
draws on census and other public data to create detailed maps (street- or block-
level, neighborhood, district) that include indicators such as educational attain-
ment, poverty rates, and percentage of court-involved residents. Such detail
allows decision makers and planners to view educational investments across a
number of dimensions.
♦ Create an extended curriculum that supports students’ learning outside of school
Programs outside of school hours can enhance students’ learning when the pro-
grams offer strong and attractive options that engage students in reading and
writing (e.g., theater classes, media production, journalism) or mathematics (e.g.,
science and engineering clubs, computer clubhouses). Such extended curriculum
opportunities can be created through partnerships between the district and organ-
izations that can offer such options (libraries, theater companies, universities,
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 85
Appendix 1 Members of the Baltimore City Public School System Review Team
Appendix 2 School Sites, Assignment Reviews, and Interviews
Appendix 3 Using Data to Improve Baltimore Schools
Appendix 4 Research-Based Design Principles for District Professional
Appendix 5 BCPSS Spending on Professional Development by Initiatives
Appendix 6 Professional Development Support for New Schools Initiative
Appendix 7 Protocols for Coding Classroom Observations
Appendix 8 Criteria for Coding Classroom Learning Environment
Appendix 9 Criteria for Reviewing Classroom Assignments
Appendix 10 Sample Lesson – Building Reading Comprehension (Eighth Grade)
Appendix 11 Sequence of Major Literacy Goals, K–12
Appendix 12 A Professional Development Strategy for B C P SS Instructional
Appendix 13 Analysis of the B C P S S Elementary Curriculum-Writing Project,
Mathematics, Book 4
Appendix 14 Sample of a Routine Math Assignment
Appendix 15 Math Assignments Differentiated for Low-, Moderately, and
Site Report Tools for Instructional Support/Content Teachers
Guide to Core Issues in Literacy Lesson Design
for Instructional Support / Content Teachers
What are your goals (or learning objectives) for this lesson?
Which goal is your priority for this lesson?
Lesson plan and design
What is your overall plan for meeting those goals?
What part of the lesson do you think will be most difficult for you? Where in your plan
would you like some assistance?
(Based on the teacher’s response, the coach focuses on one or more of the following ideas.)
Literacy content of the lesson
What is the specific literacy content of this lesson?
What are the concepts that you want students to learn?
Are there specific strategies being developed? Explain.
What skills are being taught in this lesson?
How will learning this skill/concept/strategy improve your students’ reading or writing abili-
(If necessary, the coach might lead an exploration into the literacy content or explain it.)
Context of the lesson
Where does this lesson fall in your scope and sequence, curriculum, or unit of study?
Do any of these concepts and/or skills get addressed at other points?
What standards does this lesson address?
Prior knowledge of students
What prior knowledge do your students have that is relevant to this lesson?
What relevant concepts have you already explored with this class?
What strategies and/or skills does this lesson build on?
What do you think students will find difficult or confusing or have misconceptions about?
What ideas about this concept or strategy might students begin to express
Implementation of the lesson
How will the lesson proceed? (Will you walk me through it?)
What grouping structure will you use and why (independent, partners, small groups)?
How will you explain the purpose of the lesson so that students understand how it will help
them as readers and writers?
How does each of the planned activities move students toward your stated goals?
How do you plan to help those students who you predict may have difficulty?
How much time do you predict will be needed for each part of the lesson?
How will you ensure that the learning is solidified at the end of the lesson (in a “share” or
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 87
Evidence of students’ understanding and learning
What will students say or do that will demonstrate their learning?
How will students be held accountable for their learning?
Where in the lesson will you check for student understanding?
What evidence of learning will students need to produce by the end of the lesson?
Collaboration in a learning community
How will you create space for students to make their thinking and understanding public?
How will you ensure that students are talking with and listening to one another about the con-
tent in an atmosphere of mutual respect?
Note: Instructional Support / Content Teachers should use and reword these questions as they
see fit, based on information about and the relationship with the teacher, not necessarily using
them verbatim and certainly not posing all of these in one session.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 89
Appendix__: Instructional Support Action Plan (Example)
Staff Name and Grade: Date:
Time Started:Time Ended:
Program Subject: Lesson Topic:
Indicate for each item whether it was on target (+), not on target (-
), or not observed (?). Use comment section to more fully describe
areas not on target and objectives for subsequent lesson.
This Lesson + / - / ? Comments
I will model…
I will observe…
You will prepare…
Staff Signature: Instructional Support Teacher Signature:
WHITE – Teacher YELLOW – AAO PINK – IST BLUE --
Examples of What Principals Should Look For
Curriculum Instruction Assessment
W ork with teachers in the effective utilization of supplementary
materials to support core program implementation
Encouraging teachers to build connections between students’
prior knowledge and new content W orking with teachers to
ensure appropriate balance of pedagogical strategies (e.g., phone-
mic awareness/decoding and comprehension strategies in literacy;
procedural/computational skills and multi-step problems in math)
Assisting teachers in using flexible grouping strategies and other
forms of engagement based on the task at hand
Assisting teachers in the development of a classroom environ-
ment that balances instructional rigor with a high ratio of positive to
Ensuring teachers confer individually with every student at least
once each day
Targeting pedagogy toward addressing specific skills and knowl-
edge students are lacking based on students’ differential needs
Routine emphasis on thinking aloud and modeling specific
strategies in mathematics, reading, writing, speaking, and listening
Having teachers encourage students to explain how a particular
instructional technique or strategy was or was not helpful in their
learning W orking with teachers to implement a range of for-
mal and informal assessment strategies that assess thinking skills
as well as products and behaviors
Assist teachers in development and interpretation of artifacts
(i.e., student work) that represent thinking and learning
Having teachers encourage students to explain their work in their
Assessments include development of written, oral, artistic, and
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 91
Conditions of Teaching Expected to Change Through Instructional
Support/Content Teacher Reform
Current Vision Indicators
School leadership is often remote and focused on compliance or
other operational tasks; expectations for teacher performance fol-
lows similar patterns Instructional leadership mobilizes staff
to improve instruction and regularly identify teachers with special
knowledge and skills to solve student learning problems in the
classroom Improvement planning documents identify specific
student learning problems, resources allocated to address them,
and person(s) responsible for implementing remediation strategies
School leaders spend at least 25% of their time working directly
with teachers in their classrooms in a non-evaluative capacity
Teachers work in isolation, privacy norm prevail, and effective prac-
tices are not shared
Teachers do not feel collectively responsible for student outcomes;
private (classroom) problems elicit advice and sympathy
Support for teachers is weak and teachers are reluctant to seek it
Teaching is collaborative and public
Teachers take collective responsibility for student learning
Expert assistance and direct observation and support is available,
routine, and an expected part of teaching practice; as a conse-
quence, private problems become public responsibilities All
teachers in the school are regularly observed by Instructional Sup-
port/Content Teachers weekly
Teachers have at least monthly opportunities to observe the
instructional practice of colleagues, including separate time for
briefing, direct observation, and feedback
The subject areas of mathematics or literacy/language arts con-
tain at least one regularly administered curriculum-based formative
assessment instrument that provides teachers with a clear sense
of the skills and knowledge students are lacking, which in turn
drives selection of timely and appropriate instructional interventions
Support staf f (e.g., SPED, ELL, paraprofessionals) spend at
least half of their time working directly with teachers in classrooms
Teachers have weekly opportunities to meet and plan lessons;
this time focused, agenda-driven and monitored by school leaders,
teachers, and Instructional Support/Content Teachers
Teacher expectations for student performance are differentiated by
current level of ability, family background, or socio-economic sta-
tus; consequently, tasks assigned students are not sufficiently
demanding for students to demonstrate improvement on local and
state assessments Teacher expectations are grounded in the
notion that effort creates ability. Expectations for student perform-
ance are uniformly high regardless of students’ family background
or prior educational record. W ork samples derived from dif-
ferent student populations are of the same level of cognitive
demand, appropriate to the topic being studied, and aligned with
local and state expectations for performance
Community members express satisfaction with student perform -
ance on surveys and other instruments
Professional development is episodic and disconnected Pro-
fessional development is embedded in the work, derives from chal-
lenges present in the context of instruction, and differentiated by
school, subject, and grade level where needed Teacher surveys
and classroom observations contain direct evidence of application
of skills and knowledge gained from professional development ini-
50% or greater of the fiscal resources directed toward of fsite or
“workshop-based” professional development is spent on creating
opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively with professional
development consultants in classrooms during the school day
Changes are based on personal interests, packaging and ease of
use rather than evidence Improvement is based on evidence and
monitored/assessed regularly State and local assessment
data shows all federally-mandated subgroups making performance
or improvement relative to state goals for adequate yearly progress
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 93
Appendix G : Tool for Reviewing Assignments
Key Dimensions for Commenting on Classroom Assignment
Rigor/ High expectations for performance Topic: Is the con-
tent appropriate for the time of year/grade according to the VSC?
Rigor: Is the topic addressed with the degree of rigor appropriate
to the grade level (i.e., Is it an extension of what is possible at ear-
lier grades, will it provide a robust foundation for what students will
need in order to flourish in subsequent grades or courses?)
2.A Student voice and agency What opportunities are there
for students to develop understanding (e g,, asking questions,
offering alternative strategies and solutions, etc)/
What evidence is there that students are working from their own
understanding, rather than a template/stem/common model
3.A Integration of skills and understandings What evidence is
there that students have the opportunity to perfect the basic skills
and fundamentals in this discipline?
What evidence is there that students have the opportunity to
develop higher order thinking skills that are appropriate to this dis-
cipline? (e.g., drawing inferences, making critical appraisals of
data, text, models, etc.)
Authenticity To what extent are students using texts, media,
technology or manipulatives that are appropriate to the topic and
likely to help them develop deeper understanding?
Do students have access to materials that represent the com -
plexity of the topic (e.g., when learning to measure do students
have to apply their skills to ragged edges, curved forms, etc.?
When students are learning about fact and opinion, do they apply
that concept to texts like newspapers and magazines or are they
limited to the examples in a textbook?
Reflection/ Metacognition To what extent are students responsi-
ble for exhibiting/explaining key processes for generating thought-
ful or thorough work (e.g., for editing written texts? For explaining
choice of strategy in mathematics?)
Are the expectations appropriate to the type of assignment and
conducive to student learning?
4.A Differentiation What evidence is there that the assignment
has been tailored to the needs of the individual students, without
loss of access to the key concepts and strategies?
Support for growth over time Coherence: Is there a unified
topic? If the topic changes are there links?
Rising demand: Across the three days do students have the
opportunity to develop a deeper or wider understanding of the
Grading/Response to student work Format: What is the
nature of the response to student performance (e.g., levels from
rubric, grades, comments, or percentage scores)?
Accuracy: Are responses appropriately matched to the actual
level of student work? (e.g., correct, not inflated, etc.)
Assistance: Would the responses help a student to improve per-
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 95
Appendix D: Professional Development Support for New Schools
Initiative Midtown Academy (#321) New Song Academy
(#322) The Crossroads School
(#323) KIPP Ujima Village Academy (#324)
Operator Midtown Academy, Inc. New Song Community
Learning Center, Inc. The Living Classroom Foundation
KIPP Baltimore, Inc.
Academic Coaches 1 FTE @25% 2 FTE@50% (1 for lower
grades, 1 for upper grades) 1 FTE @25% (math) 2
Common Planning Time 1 period/day 2 _ hours for lunch and
planning/day 60 minutes/day 90 min/wk across subjects; 30
min/wk across grade level.
PD Days* Morning - whole school
Afternoon – teacher teams -4 at beginning and 1 at end of year.
-Topics inc: math, language, literacy, readers and writers workshop,
-External consultant – private funds. Time split into thirds: 1)
focus as a school on a relevant educational challenge; 2) "collabo-
rative decision-making," and 3)
"team planning" Run by coaches or director – activities vary.
Extended Day/Year Extra 10 min/day -Same # of days as
BCPSS but year runs Sept in 6 week sessions.
-M-W: 8:45 ends at 5
-Th-F: 8:45 to 3:00.
-Th: pm. paid teacher time guided by coaches.
-F: pm (Sept-Jan) used by MS teams for voluntary PD directed by
principal. 7 1/2 hour school day. Early dismissal on Wednes-
days leaves an extra 5 hours per month for PD-Day runs 7:30 to 5.
With Sat. sessions, year totals 217 days.
-3-week summer session.
-Once a month 2 hours for PD through early student dismissal
Other 2-day retreat funded through New School Initiative, 1 exter-
nal consultant for workshop
Conferences: 2 teachers - ASCD literacy conference; 2
teachers - exp. learning national conference; principal and Asst. -
exp. leadership conference; 2 teachers week long summer math
institute. $30,000 from Outward Bound, for PD - job-embedded
and workshops. Teachers can apply individually for workshops
KIPP conference – 4 days; during year, KIPP conferences on dif-
ferent subjects, 2 days long.
-Language Arts teachers attended a couple 2-3 day conferences.
Principal Support None noted -2 conferences: 9th grade transi-
tion and exp. Learning.
-Independent study for prep. for Fri. MS team meetings.
-Starting/continuing masters studies None noted -KIPP school
leaders conferences. ----Support from local college prep school, St.
Paul’s Girls’ School, once a week.
*Unless otherwise noted, BCPSS teacher contractual days are the
same in number and time but are school-controlled (except for
state/district mandated activities)
Initiative ConneXions Community Leadership Academy (#325)
Empowerment Academy (#262) Rosemont Elementary (#63)
City Springs School
Operator Baltimore Teacher Network, Inc. Empowerment Tem-
ple Uses BCPSS Curriculum Baltimore Curriculum Project, Inc.
Academic Coaches 2 FTE @ X% (from Outward Bound)
Teacher mentors - Blum 1 FTE @ 100% 1 FTE@ 60% and
another “resource” person with full teaching load. Coppin provides
stipend. 4 FTEs@50% each
Common Planning Time 1 _ hours/day (will change next year)
1 period/wk 1 team meeting per week 45 min/wk
PD Days* No PD days. Time allocated into early dismissals and
Activities designed and led by staff. Literacy through the Arts.
Led by Coach. Run by Coppin State -In-house but will
group with two other direct instruction schools for some pd activi-
ties on pd days. With coaches with small teams of teachers, topics
according to school need.
-Support for new teachers during the first week from the 4 aca-
-Occasionally, a consultant from their direct instruction association
will come in for pd on the PD days.
Extended Day/Year _ day dismissal on Wed. for PD None None
Other -Some Saturday workshops through Goutcher col-
-Summer retreat for all staff.
-Late fall and early winter workshops. -3 day retreat to learn
about fish and wildlife through a grant obtained with Coppin State’s
-Optional PD every Saturday for teachers for 4 hours. Run by Cop-
pin State .
-Teachers get free tuition at Coppin State to get their masters.
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 97
Principal Support Annual Outward Bound retreat. Johns Hop-
kins mentoring program, once a month for new principals. State
provides a retired principal mentor who comes about once every 2
weeks for 3 hours. None noted
*Unless otherwise noted, BCPSS teacher contractual days are the
same in number and time but are school-controlled (except for
state/district mandated activities)
Becoming a Capable and Accountable System 99
Education Resource Strategies
8 Bennett Road
Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Brown University, Box 1985
Providence, Rhode Island
Cover Drawing: “My Baltimore” by Shawntez Foster
Grade 5, Age 10, Abbottston Elementary School #50