Md. colleges join movement to snuff out student smoking

About one-third of Maryland colleges and universities have decided to follow a recent national trend to ban smoking on college campuses. The majority of institutions clearing the air are community colleges and the 10 campuses within the University System of Maryland, which adopted a system-wide smoke-free policy last year. Only two private schools in the state, both with religious affiliations, have enacted smoking bans. (CNS/Daily Record)

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Schools save money with solar, but pay higher bills

Solar power is cheaper, the schools are finding out, but electricity bills are not necessarily smaller. It depends whether they’re using more — or not. To save money with renewable energy, Kent County Public Schools partnered with two local governments to draw on solar power. In August, the county government learned much the same lesson. It discovered electric bills were much higher after a faulty meter at the Worton wastewater plant was replaced — something that had no direct link to its three solar energy projects. (Star-Democrat)

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Harford school board hears challenges facing recruitment and retention

Despite all the public posturing over the past several years about teacher pay increases, Harford County Public Schools has one of the highest teacher retention rates in the state, according to a recently release report on teacher recruitment and retention. But school officials continue to warn Harford's system faces challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers and other staff members as pay rates fall behind neighboring counties and the cost of benefits increases. And, the report notes, two of the counties with higher retention rates are on Harford's borders. (Aegis)

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Common Core under fire in Md.

The Maryland School Assessments, a set of standardized tests for elementary and middle-school students, are under fire by some parents, teachers, lawmakers and school officials who say the tests are outdated and meaningless in the age of Common Core academic standards. Two state lawmakers from Montgomery County say they’re drafting bills asking the state to seek a waiver this school year from a federal requirement to give standardized tests. (Daily Times)

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U.S. Labor Secretary Perez visits Don Bosco Cristo Rey School in Takoma Park

High school students at Don Bosco Cristo Rey in Takoma Park are working their way through school, one day a week, at law firms, government offices, universities, hospitals and construction companies. Most students couldn’t afford the private education otherwise — money earned working these jobs goes toward tuition. And they learn job skills along the way. U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez highlighted his hometown school’s program in a visit on Dec. 18 and spoke to students about continuing to pursue their education. (Gazette)

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Brickyard school site fallow for now

Those involved in the controversy over the Brickyard school site in Potomac — which ended in February after an outcry by residents that included lawsuits and accusations of closed-door deals — are, like the land itself, waiting for Montgomery County Public Schools, which owns the land, to make the next move. The 20-acre parcel was the subject of a tug-of-war between Potomac residents and Montgomery County, which took over ownership of the property and planned to lease it to a private club for use as soccer fields. (Gazette)

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Student artists honored by Annapolis

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot unveiled a series of student artwork Dec. 20 to be honored in the state capital as part of the Maryland Masters Award. The program, announced in July, recognizes young scholars with "extraordinary artistic skills and vision for Maryland’s future," according to the comptroller's office. Franchot reached out to each of Maryland's public school superintendents and asked them to choose a piece of artwork from an elementary, middle or high school student in their school system, a July news release states. He will now show their works alongside one of his favorite artists, Baltimore-born modernist Herman Maril. (News-Post)

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Dec. 23 // Montgomery parents say Maryland standardized test is outdated

Among parents in Montgomery County, standardized testing is facing new opposition: Why, they ask, must their students take outdated exams that no longer reflect their classroom teaching? Many are urging that the Maryland School Assessments (MSAs) scheduled for March be canceled. The standardized exams, which go back a decade, are given to students in grades 3 through 8 for math and reading; science is tested in grades 5 and 8. Results are used as a marker of accountability, showing how well schools do in educating their students. But increasingly, critics contend the tests lack purpose — and take away time that could be used for instruction — because they do not reflect the Common Core standards now being taught. (Wash. Post)

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