If you are a Baltimore County Public School parent, please go to Facebook and join the End AIM Now group. The group has grown like a rocket, acquiring almost 1,700 members in two weeks.
AIM stands for "Articulated Instruction Module". It's a pseudo-curriculum and tool for tracking student progress. A strange animal.
Here is my summary of the discussion that's happening on the End AIM Now page. But don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself.
- Confusing - it's another grading system in which "A" is the worst grade
- Confusing - Too much jargon in the items
- Confusing - Items are not sequenced according to how they are taught
- Redundant with existing system
- Time consuming for teachers (high opportunity cost)
- Uneven quality of the content
- Infected w/some politically correct language
- Terrible computer/user interface
- Unintended consequence: many teachers are already planning to quit BCPS to teach in other counties if AIM passes.
PROBLEMS W/THE PLANNING, DESIGN & IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS
- No input from teachers & parents
- Dropped in our laps as a surprise in December
PROBLEMS W/BCPS LEADERSHIP
- Not listening
- Mischaracterizing opposition to AIM
- Atmosphere of fear
- Conflict of interest (one BCPS employee who has a company on the side apparently owns copyrights to the material and stands to make money if BCPS implements AIM.)
- Creepy Kabuki theatre atmosphere of BCPS school board meetings (criticism disappears into the ether ... it's very rare for a citizen commenter to get any reaction or response to complaints made in the comment period. The board tends to sit expressionless. Then the open meeting ends, and they go back to their secret meetings.)
- Make easy fixes to the existing system first.
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES IF BCPS AIM "STREAMLINING" COMMITTEE DOES NOT KILL THE PROGRAM BY 1/26
- A dump-the-superintendent campaign or a dump-the-AIM creator campaign.
- Lobbying the governor to appoint anti-AIM board members
- A moral suasion campaign to get interested officials to pressure BCPS leadership (Jim Smith, county council, state legislators)
QUESTIONS FOR BCPS LEADERSHIP
- How much teacher time has gone into the program?
- Where has this program been tested? Or are we the guinea pigs?
THINGS TO PREPARE FOR UPCOMING MEETINGS
[See the Facebook group for dates, times and locations.]
- Estimates of budget impact
- Specific instances of shoddy quality (One instance: the Algebra part!! Not a single equation in the whole AIM module. Nary an x or a y or a z. It's not sequenced according to how it is taught. This module is abstract, full of jargon, and very hard for parents to understand.)
- Focused messages.
- Poor economy. Citizens, more than ever, are scrutinizing public servants and trying to figure out which ones to keep and which ones need to go.
A FINAL THOUGHT
At every opportunity, BCPS administrators seem to talk about the latest "Blue Ribbon" school, the number of BCPS schools on the Newsweek list of best high schools, Maryland's #1 ranking among public school systems.
But I've never heard any of them worry about this Forbes article: Best and Worst School Districts for the Buck. Baltimore county is in the bottom ten percent. I suspect that programs like AIM are the reason why.
In light of this, it rankles to hear the superintendent's frequent references to BCPS's "award-winning" budgeting and financial management program. When public servants talk too much about awards, it usually means they don't have much in the way of results to brag about.