Baltimore Curriculum Project September 2018 Newsletter
In this issue:
  • BCP Summer Training Institute for New Teachers
  • Huge Gains on State Test for Hampstead Hill Academy
  • The Write Stuff: An Interview with Madison Smartt Bell
  • BCP to Serve as Principal Education Partner for $30 Million Choice Neighborhoods Grant
  • Bon Secours Community Works Sponsors Health Fair at Frederick Elementary
  • Strong City Baltimore Features New Govans Principal Bernarda Kwaw
  • Wolfe Street Academy's Outstanding Teachers Need TLC Too
  • Partners Provide School Supplies Galore for BCP Schools!
  • Introducing University of MD School of Social Work Intern Danny Roller
BCP Summer Training Institute for New Teachers
By Jon McGill, Director of Academic Affairs, Baltimore Curriculum Project
The Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) has been committed for many years to providing excellent and timely professional development, especially to those new to teaching, to Baltimore City Public Schools and to BCP schools.

Every year, BCP gathers 30-40 new staff, usually early in August, to help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to be ready for their initial weeks of work. Training continues throughout the year in both individual and group settings.

From August 6-10, Frederick Elementary hosted our training in behavior management, school climate and culture, and in Direct Instruction.

Our coaches (Marvelyn Johnson, Stacey Hicks, Brenda Kahn, Charmaine Turner, Rosemary Byron, Melissa Hayden, and the Academic Director, Jon McGill) served as guides, coaches and teachers for the new cohort of teachers and classroom aides. Those same folks will be in schools all year long to follow up on what was provided during that initial week.

The new staff varied from those who were brand new to the profession, coming from various universities and accreditation programs, to those who had been teaching for some time but were first-timers with BCP.

BCP has provided this kind of training for many years and the evidence indicates that such PD has a major positive impact on ensuring that new staff understand the expectations of both BCP and the schools. This work also helps our staff acclimate, meet new colleagues and feel that by the end of this week they are no longer “new” but ready to join supportive staff and ready to make an impact on Baltimore's students and their educational lives.

This professional development initiative is vitally important. Our training programs, delivered in the main by our coaches and Academic Director, include a wide range of practical and supportive guidelines for teachers, including on such issues as vocabulary teaching, the impact of poverty on learning, Restorative Practices training and an array of other offerings that support and develop teachers.

To learn more about BCP’s professional development, contact Jon McGill at
Huge Gains on State Test for Hampstead Hill Academy
Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA) students outperformed their peers in Baltimore City Public Schools and the State as a whole on the PARCC assessment, Maryland's annual state test.

In reading, 52% of HHA students passed; 42% of students in Maryland passed; and 18% of students in City Schools passed.

In math, 42% of HHA students passed, 31% of students in Maryland passed, and 14% of students in City Schools passed.

HHA ranked:

  • First in the city for the second year in a row in 3-5 reading among African-American students;
  • Second out of of 124 elementary schools (3-5) in reading and math among economically disadvantaged students;
  • First out of 94 middle schools (6-8) in reading and math for economically disadvantaged students; and
  • Fourth out of 124 elementary schools in reading and math and second out of 94 middle schools in reading and math for for English Language Learners.

Staff at HHA are forming a Data and Equity subcommittee of the School Family Council this fall to analyze the performance of all student groups, the composition of students identified as gifted or advanced, and make recommendations to better support the high academic performance of all HHA students.

Great Job to Hampstead Hill Academy and all of the hard working students at that school!
THE WRITE STUFF: An interview with Madison Smartt Bell
The Write Stuff is a new BCP interview series about writing and public education.
BALTIMORE CURRICULUM PROJECT: What inspired you to be a professional writer?

MADISON SMARTT BELL: My mother taught me to read when I was three, a couple of years before I started school. Reading from that point on was always a huge part of my life. Throughout elementary school I read a few years above my grade level. I was a bit sickly as a small child and logged a good deal of time on what Robert Louis Stevenson called “The Land of Counterpane.” Reading held me up through those episodes. From the time I was six or seven I wanted to be the person who had the power of telling the story, not just a consumer. And it went on from there.

Talk about a teacher who had an impact on you.
Well, there were plenty. My first grade teacher was a martinet who in advanced age had developed a good number of pathological qualities. For an example of her effect on the kids, the day I was supposed to start second grade I hid in the barn, successfully, all day; I actually missed the first day of school, that year. I don’t mean to say she was all bad. I had some respect for her at the time and in hindsight, more. She had aged out and really needed to retire some years before I hit her classroom, but nobody had the nerve to tell her so. Everybody connected to the school was afraid of her, parent, faculty, staff, administration—except for my mother, who wasn’t afraid of anything, as a result of which I got some relief late in the year. The teacher’s cruelty to children wasn’t intentional, but it was often quite severe. I was far from getting the worst of it but I got my share. I was naturally bored out of my mind in reading circle, as the other kids struggled through those tiny sentences about the adventures of Dick and Jane, and would be punished daily for skipping ahead.

When I was finally lassoed and dragged to the second grade I found a kindly grandmotherly woman who, once she understood my advanced reading ability, knew it was an asset and set me up to spend time helping out in the library and stuff like that. Thanks to her I realized school didn’t have to be, well… an unbounded experience of mental torture.

Little things do make a difference to little kids.

What would you recommend for children who have trouble putting their thoughts on paper?
This problem is not unknown at college level, actually… I’m not a specialist at either that level or yours, but I have been thinking that simple storytelling might be a gateway to writing for both age groups. It’s very easy to record speech these days. Ask kids to tell a story in whatever situation they may find relaxing… and then: Well you said this! It’s pretty cool. Let’s show you how to write it down. For kids who are too nonverbal to tell stories with facility, maybe they can draw and then describe what they have drawn, in speech and then in writing. Older students, I think, almost always have some kind of voice that they use for social situations. The idea of just transcribing that could be an opening to functional written expression. And if the task is to render one’s own voice it might seem a little less like… homework one doesn’t want to do.

How important is it to teach correct mechanics of writing? How important to provide opportunity for free expression without pulling out “the red marking pen”?
The importance of clear expository writing hasn’t gone away. That ability gives people an edge in life, and acquiring it does involve the use of grammar. On the other hand, my experience teaching creative writing (a lot) and courses requiring expository writing (much less) has taught me that these two abilities coincide a lot less than you might assume. It’s sort of like math and chess-playing ability--there’s some relationship but it’s not huge.

When I mark student manuscripts I automatically copy edit (and in some cases wish desperately that students would internalize those suggestions) but I don’t stress that aspect in talking about the stories—what’s far more important is the authenticity and conviction of voice, character development, strength of the plot line, sense of structure.

Teachers in K-12 are up against a different problem—we hope you’ll get a lot of practical expository writing taught so that we won’t have to do it all when your students arrive at college—but my intuition tells me that, at any level, if you give kids an opportunity to tell stories they want or need to tell in some way that’s comfortable for them, they’ll connect positively to the process, and can be coaxed toward grammar from there.

What is one book all elementary school children should read?
Huckleberry Finn, and I say that knowing that in the current social climate it’s an explosive choice. So I will explain it in detail. For a start, this novel portrays quintessential American experience very broadly, at least in principle (okay, it doesn’t cover the full spectrum of today’s population, but I think that a Hmong immigrant kid in Minneapolis could look at how Huck is first made to be a social outcast and later, for sound moral and ethical reasons, chooses to be that, and say, yeah, I get that.) The message of the book is profoundly anti-racist. It does of course make use of a word which nowadays we dare not say (although I will say that making any single word taboo—which words are taboo is something that changes with the times, of course-- only invests it with more harmful power when it is taken out of its lead casket, which as we know to our sorrow it often, in certain unenlightened contexts, still is).

To be anti-racist in Mark Twain’s time was to be anti-slavery, and Huckleberry Finn is also obviously that. Its vocabulary is essential to a realistic portrayal of the situation of that time, and well, sorry, there’s just no honest way to walk that back! When you are called to face a situation, you can’t always be polite about it. Twain’s novel has warts on it, in faithful reflection of the deeply flawed society of mid-nineteenth-century America. The author surely knows those warts are there, is showing them to us so we can see them plainly. Let us have it, warts and all.

There are many small lessons learned along the path of this novel but the most important one is Huck’s decision to choose his friends for (to quote another great American) the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. And he makes this choice with zero support from the surrounding society. The moral courage that decision requires is still exemplary. The book properly ends with Huck’s declaration: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—rather than sign himself into the deeply corrupt values that are supposed to pave the path to heaven.

The denouement, dominated by Tom Sawyer, is an absurdity having nothing to do with the real point of the book. I’m not advocating a bowdlerized edition—there’d be babies thrown out with that bathwater. Today, Huckleberry Finn needs to be taught very sensitively to handle that point, the point about the language and a few other issues, but teachers should also remember that our students often have more powers of discernment than we give them credit for. My students, last time I taught the book, reached most of the conclusions I outline above without much prompting. I recently heard from another teacher about a group of African American students who were outraged by the idea of producing an edition which would substitute for ______ the word “slave” – they thought that would be a kind of cover up, and they were right.

If I were to teach Huckleberry Finn again, I think I would close the discussion by playing Janelle Monae’s “Americans” – to my mind a contender for a new and improved national anthem. Play Loud.

Is there a “big idea” or theme that flows through your books?
Oh… that human beings try to make the best they can of themselves in the circumstances they’re given, that they try to win love, and deserve it, and be true to it, and to please God if they think there is one.

What do you believe to be the purpose of public education?
Universal suffrage and public education are the two fundamental guarantees of American society-- the two factors that are supposed to make us what we want to think we are. The road to universal suffrage was extremely rocky and right now it is (again!) under extremely vicious attack. Public education is meant to be the instrument of equal opportunity and to underwrite, not a classless society because that doesn’t exist anywhere, but a society with more class mobility than most.

I say that and believe it, but will also admit that I went to private schools, and so did my daughter, so did my parents for that matter (at high school level in their case). I’m ashamed of that only technically—I understand that parents will always try to make the best educational choice for their children. Public education ought to be that best choice. That it is very often not—because it has been systematically starved of resources by our government—may be our greatest national disgrace (among many that may now seem more obvious!), but is in no way to the discredit of the people who have the extraordinary courage and determination to keep working in the public education system.

Madison Smartt Bell is the author of thirteen novels. Bell's eighth novel, All Soul's Rising, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award and winner of the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race. Bell's latest novel, The Color of Night, appeared from Vintage Contemporaries in April 2011. Born and raised in Tennessee, he has lived in New York and in London and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Princeton University (A.B 1979) and Hollins College (M.A. 1981), he has taught in various creative writing programs, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Since 1984 he has taught in the Goucher College Creative Program, where he is currently Professor of English, along with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires. Bell served as Director of the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College from 1999 to 2008. In 2008 he received the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

To learn more about Madison Smartt Bell visit:
BCP to Serve as Principal Education Partner for $30 Million Choice Neighborhoods Grant
BCP is proud to serve as the Principal Education Partner for the $30 million FY2017 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant for the Perkins, Somerset, and Oldtown neighborhoods, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the City of Baltimore.

The Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant will be used to leverage commitments to develop vibrant, mixed-income housing; revive key commercial corridors; redevelop blighted properties; enhance public safety; and provide families with the tools they need to achieve their personal goals.

As Principal Education Partner, BCP has developed an enhanced Education Strategy for City Springs Elementary/Middle School. The strategy includes a City Springs high school/college support program; onsite early childhood education; and the development of City Springs as a Restorative Practices demonstration school.

The project will also include a brand-new City Springs Elementary/Middle School building and athletic field.

Additional key partners for the Choice Neighborhoods grant include PSO Housing Company, LLC (a joint venture of McCormack Baron Salazar, Mission First Housing Group, The Henson Development Company, and Beatty Development Group) | Urban Strategies | Baltimore Curriculum Project | Perkins Homes Tenant Council | Abell Foundation | Baltimore Police Department | The City of Baltimore Development Corporation - BDC | Baltimore Healthy Start, Inc. | Baltimore Medical System | CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield | Child First Authority | Commercial Development, Inc. | Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, Inc. | H&S Bakery | Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School | Living Classrooms Foundation | Maryland Hunger Solutions | Maryland Institute College of Art | Maryland New Directions | Office of Employment Development | Open Society Institute-Baltimore | RBC Capital Markets Corporation | Red Mortgage Capital, LLC | Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore | SunTrust | The Foundery | Thread | Urban Atlantic.

Bon Secours Community Works Sponsors Health Fair at Frederick Elementary
Bon Secours Community Works sponsored a wonderful Back to School Family Health Fair at Frederick Elementary(FES) on September 12, 2018. The event included free book bags, children’s entertainment, financial services, the Pratt Mobile Job Center, nutrition services, refreshments, Early Head Start, the Reentry Program, health screenings, and more.
“As the Community School Coordinator of Frederick Elementary, my Bon Secours Team and I truly enjoyed planning and Implementing the Health Fair,” said Sabrina Wiggins. "It was a joy to see Frederick Elementary and the Southwest community accessing valuable resources. It is my strong belief that when true partnerships come together the community wins.”
Bon Secours Community Works has served as the lead Community School Lead Agency for FES since 2017. Community Schools, facilitated by the Family League and operated through partnerships with Lead Agencies, bring together a wide range of partners and community resources to promote student achievement, positive conditions for learning and the well-being of families and communities.

Frederick Elementary would like to thank Bon Secours Community Works, Bon Secours Family Support Center, Bon Secours Housing, Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, Councilman John Bullock, Future Baltimore, Kaiser Permanente, ShareBaby, Game Cave, the Pratt Mobile Job Center, Southwestern High School Alumni and our volunteers for supporting the Health Fair.
Strong City Baltimore Features New Govans Principal Bernarda Kwaw
BCP would like to thank Strong City Baltimore for featuring Bernarda Kwaw, Govans Elementary's new Principal, in an article in their website. Strong City Baltimore is the Lead Community School Agency for Govans Elementary.

With a New Principal in the Office and a New Building on the Horizon, Fast-Improving Govans Elementary Moves into the Future
Published by Strong City Baltimore on September 5, 2018 at:

Imagine you’re a principal trying to get ready for the new school year. It’s a big challenge – a thousand different tasks to get done, a hundred things that could go wrong, and all of it resting on your shoulders. If you’re a first-time principal it’s even tougher, because on top of all those expectations, you will essentially be learning on the job.

Now consider this scenario:

It’s a new school year, you’re a first-time principal, and your school is closing at the end of the year, reopening in a temporary space next school year, and relocating yet again 12 to 18 months after that, in a brand-new building. That’s the exact situation facing Principal Bernarda Kwaw at Govans Elementary School, and although she was “feeling excited and anxious” a few days before the start of the school year, in a recent interview she seemed remarkably calm. “My husband reminded me that I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” said Principal Kwaw, who taught at Collington Square Elementary/Middle School in East Baltimore for two decades and was assistant principal at Govans for the last three years.

Govans is one of more than two dozen schools being renovated or replaced under the 21st Century School Buildings Plan, an unprecedented $1 billion commitment to upgrade city schools, which are the oldest and most deteriorated in Maryland. Strong City Baltimore was an influential force in securing this funding, through its work with the Baltimore Education Coalition, the leading advocacy group for the city’s public school families. Strong City is a founder, organizer, and fiscal sponsor of the Coalition, and Strong City staff have held leadership positions in the organization.

Strong City’s Community School Coordinator for Govans Elementary is Sandi McFadden, herself a resident of the Mid-Govans community the school serves. Ms. Sandi worked closely with former Govans Principal Linda Taylor, and now with Principal Kwaw, to increase family engagement, build partnerships, and assess the needs of the school community. (The school has particularly strong relationships with local churches, including Church of the Redeemer, Huber Memorial, and Front Porch.) Such community-based work is even more important now, given the dramatic transition the school is going through.

Govans experienced improvement under former Principal Taylor, who arrived when the school was in danger of being taken over by the state and led Govans for 12 years after serving as assistant principal at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School under Dr. Mariale Hardiman. Former Principal Taylor focused on increasing parent involvement, cultivating partnerships, and raising attendance rates and test scores. Three years ago, Govans became a charter school as part of the Baltimore Curriculum Project, which introduced progressive concepts such as the use of restorative practices to solve conflicts, the Direct Instruction reading program, and tailoring professional development sessions to fit the school’s specific needs. In 2016, Sandi McFadden became the community school liaison, as Govans embarked on the process of becoming a community school with the support of the Family League of Baltimore, the Goldseker Foundation, and Strong City.

Read the rest of the article at:
Wolfe Street Academy's Outstanding Teachers Need TLC Too
Wolfe Street Academy (WSA) is a Title I Schoolwide Program where, at any given moment, 40 adults serve 251 PreK-5 students.

Currently the school district estimates that 88% of students live in poverty. Over 63% of the students receive English as a Second Language services, and over 9% receive Special Education services.

WSA is committed to providing quality education for all students and this commitment has launched their students into academic success.

From 2005 to 2014, WSA moved from the 77th highest to the 2nd highest performing elementary school in Baltimore, as measured on the Maryland School Assessment. 

These exceptional academic outcomes are due to a collaborative effort between students, parents, neighbors, and school staff.

As a Community School, WSA focuses on engaging parents and empowering them as their children’s primary educators.

In the classrooms, WSA ensures that all teachers provide rigorous, quality instruction designed to meet the academic and socio-emotional needs of all students.

WSA teachers and staff work diligently day in and day out to serve WSA students and their families to the best of their ability. On many days, this is a thankless, yet crucial task.

Due to limited school funding, WSA has had to make difficult choices that often limits the amount of support and teambuilding opportunities the school can offer to teachers and staff. 

Over the summer WSA launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide more opportunities for teachers to bond, collaborate, and support one another. Mutual support and positive morale has been shown to boost school climate and culture, making the school environment one that is pleasant for staff to work in and welcoming to students, parents, and community members. 

So far WSA has raised $975. The funds have been used to upgrade the teacher's lounge with new furniture, a Keurig, and new lighting.

"We are so happy with the result," said Leah Beachley, SWCOS Community Schools Coordinator at WSA.

"It’s come a long way from being just a conference room table with a microwave. The teachers are all very excited about this new, calming space for them to eat lunch and do work during their planning periods."

With your help we can provide additional supports for WSA teachers such as personalized school uniforms, Teacher Appreciation Week care packages, and other incentives throughout the school year.

Thank you

WSA and BCP would like to thank everyone who has supported WSA's outstanding teachers so far:

  • Curtis Bone
  • Rachel Duden
  • Ralph Ellis
  • Mollie Fein
  • Becky and David Hornbeck
  • Lois Hybl
  • Tracy North

Special thanks to WSA Special Education Teacher Katrina Kickbush for coming up with the idea to start the crowdfunding campaign and for helping set up the teacher's lounge.
Partners Provide School Supplies Galore for BCP Schools!
The Baltimore Curriculum Project would like to thank all of the partners and individuals who donated school supplies and backpacks to our schools for this school year:

City Springs Elementary/Middle School

Frederick Elementary

Govans Elementary

Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA)

Wolfe Street Academy

Introducing University of MD School of Social Work Intern Danny Roller
BCP would like to introduce Danny Roller, our new intern from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Danny is currently in his advanced year at the school earning his MSW. His primary interests include education policy, restorative practices, and program development.

Danny received his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2017 from Indiana University. He moved to Baltimore in May to pursue his degree at the University of Maryland. Before coming to Baltimore, Danny worked with families in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice systems.

Danny was placed at BCP through the School of Social Work's Field Education program, a required component of graduate social work education. Included in a student's Plan of Study are two different field placements in social services agencies, departments or other service delivery systems located throughout the State of Maryland and surrounding areas.

For more information about the Field Education program visit:
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