NASBE Pre-Conference::Visit to Halstead Academy::Baltimore County Public Schools::Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Maryland is organized into 24 public school districts. Members of NASBE visited the Halstead Academy of Art and Science, a preK-5 magnet school in Towson MD, part of the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS, @BaltCoPS). School data is HERE.

Recent 3rd grade study of Gustav Klimt...

...inspired artwork that beautifies the hallways

Halstead is also a district "lighthouse school" piloting the county's instructional digital conversion program known as Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.). The name "stat" (proposed by a group of students) conveys the urgency of the work: learner-centered, not led by technology, and future-focused, not based on tradition.

Theory of Action - BCPS' North Star

Framework is based on Danielson & P21

As Massachusetts has been wrangling with its decision about how to assess students now that the state has aligned frameworks with common core state standards, something I've been asking in state board meetings is: What's our vision for 21st c learning? If we're saying that we need "next gen" assessments, what are we doing to ensure that our school and classroom environments, curriculum, professional development, instructional practice, and so on are also next gen? What do students need today to meet tomorrow's (unknown) demands?

Not only have they asked the questions and forwarded a vision, BCPS has a plan. The digital conversion is in its third year of a comprehensive five-year strategic plan that includes system-wide changes in everything from budgeting, physical facilities, policies, and communications to professional development, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Learning is changing with intention and buy-in from all stakeholders in BCPS schools, with everything from how classroom furniture is arranged, to what is being taught, to how the school day is structured. Ultimately, as the S.T.A.T. program progresses, all BCPS schools will have:

  • digitally-enhanced curriculum supplemented with engaging, adaptive digital resources;
  • digital devices for every student and teacher;
  • educator, student, and parent access to information and resources through the BCPS One platform;
  • wireless and broadband infrastructure.

District policy review process

Instruction-driven approach to tech

S.T.A.T. evaluation tool

During our site visit, we met first with the instructional technology team for short presentations on the above, then visited classrooms, talking with students and teachers. Fifth grade classes were on a field trip; I spoke with children and adults in their K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classrooms. I observed respectful learning environments, engaged students, small group instruction, collaborative and parallel learning, and student-directed learning:

Third grade parallel learning

Kindergarten whole group instruction

Second grade small group math (at whiteboard table) 

Third grade class expectations 

Third grade small group literacy

First grade collaborative learning

Second grade collaborative learning

Pro tip: Include FTE needs in the RFP for leased devices! BCPS included 89 FTEs as district-wide Instructional Coaches who support all educators. Coaches observe and offer feedback through the use of guiding questions focused on the teacher, the learning environment, and the student:
  • Teacher: What teacher behaviors contribute to a learner-centered environment for all students?
  • Space: How does the physical space reflect input from all students and facilitate a learner-centered environment?
  • Student: How are all students (by race, gender, English language competency, or disability) acquiring, developing, using, or producing knowledge, information, and skills?
Learner-Centered Environments: Professional Learning Tool

Here's the take-away: The district developed a comprehensive plan to integrate technology SIDE-BY-SIDE with teachers, school administration, the local school board, families, and the public. Eight areas were identified for conversion: communications, budget, policy, infrastructure, organizational development, assessment, instruction, and curriculum. Budgets are realigned and reallocated to support the district's implementation of the BCPS THEORY OF ACTION - - $207 million over 5 years (for necessary infrastructure), then settling into the operating budget at $67 million each year thereafter. Substantial investment has been made in BCPS - and beginning returns on that investment expect to be evident this year, three-years into the plan.

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