BCPS AIM controversy: Baltimore Sun drops ball, downplays number & passion of AIM opponents

Criticism at Baltimore County school board meetings tends to be muted and depersonalized. When teachers let their passion show in the comment period, the norm is to attack policies but not the integrity of the people behind them.

The striking thing about last night's meeting was the breech of this norm by the last speaker, BCPS math teacher James Beam.

Beam is the organizer of End AIM Now, a Facebook page that has attracted 1,600 members in 11 days. While criticizing AIM, here's what Beam said about Superintedent Joe Hairston:
With the dawn of the Articulated Instruction Module (AIM) we have seen Dr. Hairston ascend to his throne. He no longer works collaboratively with us. Cronies are allowed to make decisions in his absence and we are forced to accept that there is no check against this new found unbridled authority. New policy immediately displaces everything that we have come to believe and trust as best practices.

Meetings are now held in secret, to the point that we cannot find out who is attending them, let alone see a copy of their minutes. Our teachers and administrators are afraid to speak out against this because they fear losing the livelihood that feeds their family.

The outsider has become king. He rules with an iron fist, and we suffer.
The applause following Beam's comments was among the most enthusiastic and prolonged that I've heard at a board meeting.

One thing that mystifies me is the blandness of the Sun's coverage. Here's the bowdlerized soundbite from Beam that Liz Bowie and her editors chose to include:
James Beam, a math teacher from Parkville High School, praised Hairston for some of his previous initiatives. But he said with AIM, "He no longer works collaboratively with us." Beam said the AIM progress reports "should be taken off the table."
Don't they want to sell newspapers?

Ann Miller did a much better job in the Examiner.

It seems to me that Dr. Hairston continues to underestimate the breadth and depth of opposition to AIM.
Hairston blamed the outcry on some ill-informed teachers who he said were blowing the issue out of proportion and wanting to create a controversy where there was none.

"These people are creating the crisis out there," he said.
It's time for him to wake up and smell the coffee.

This BCPS parent thinks James Beam's aim is right on target.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this.... the teachers of BCPS are not the "minority." In fact many could not come because they were attending after school, clubs, sports and assemblies. We need to continue to fight this - the time that this will take away from instruction is ridiculous. Those of us who will not allow the time to be taken away from instruction will jeopardize our families or stay up late to complete this. This is a vicious cycle which needs to stops here. Challenge Dezmon to explain the grading criteria for her "container” how is it measurable? Challenge the financial side of this.... INVESTIGATE - something else is occurring here!

  2. This teacher is grateful for your willingness to listen, comment, and get involved as a parent. Implementation of AIM truly is a parent concern. This inadequate, redundant, and self-serving tool copyrighted by a friend of the superintendent and employee of the system is only one example of the lack of transparency and collaboration in favor of focused concern on personal advantage of a very few adults. BCPS needs a leader who accepts reponsibility, demonstrates with actions not just hollow words that he believes in the goals of his own blueprint for progress, and acts in the best interest of the students he should serve rather than the personal interests of a select few adults. This administration will be remembered for its stubborn clinging to a very bad idea rather than one that listens with reason, acts on behalf of children, and leads with vision. I agree with the previous poster, INVESTIGATE now! Our students deserve the best...we need to make sure they get our best.

  3. Parents, are you aware that a former BCPS teacher of the year and current president of the TEACHER'S union was turned away from the meeting of the committee to "streamline" AIM? The superintendent has demonstrated his unwilliingness to be inclusive. His refusal to allow Ms. Bost into the dialogue reflects his fear of including an honest, knowledgeable representative who will not respond to fear and intimidation. I am incredulous of the rampant and openly dimissive and disrespectful attitude of a superintendent toward those he would like to lead. Leadership is not the same as tyranny. We deserve a leader. Let's begin the search. I encourage all citizens of Baltimore County to put in a plea for ethical and responsive leadership in our system. This way of doing business is simply unfair to our students. This behavior is not worthy of a superintendent of schools. Parents, thank you for your willingness to get involved. Please continue to research what is happening in BCPS and let your voices be heard.

  4. Without a doubt, one of the most infuriating aspects of this entire AIM fiasco is the fact that so many BCPS man hours, resources and funds have already been diverted from classrooms all over the county and instead been put to use to transform a 20-year old “container” idea into an unwieldy and redundant exercise in data overkill. To put it bluntly, the AIM progress reporting system is simply inferior to what some teachers have already been using in many schools. I urge BCPS parents, elected officials and other stakeholders to take a look at readily available software and programs, like Easy Grade Pro and edline, and consider how AIM’s goals could be accomplished in a manner that supports instead of undermines teaching. A quick check of the edline/Easy Grade Pro website reveals that “up to 128 standards can be added to each class at up to three levels (i.e. standard, strand, indicator). Up to 10 standards can be linked to any assignment for scoring using built-in or user-defined rubrics.” While this software is capable of tracking all AIM objectives the developers are quick to point out within the site’s FAQ that “although, Easy Grade Pro has been designed to accommodate these long lists, we recommend that you actually report on no more than a dozen standards. Otherwise, the effort and time required may become overwhelming. Students and parents may become overwhelmed as well.” I can personally attest to the fact that there are much better programs in use throughout our profession that allow teachers to integrate their grade books, standards tracking and instant generation of meaningful progress reports. Some schools even use options which allow parents to view grade reports online. Does AIM do any of this? No? Then why is BCPS reinventing the wheel? More specifically, why is BCPS reinventing a clunky rectangular shaped wheel? In the end I only wish BCPS had used my share of AIM development funds on more consistent heat in my school so my students, colleagues, and I could leave our coats in our lockers until we actually plan to leave the building.