Stories to tell – BCPS Superintendent stresses student-centered learning as focus for school system

Direction outlined during 3rd annual State of the Schools address

TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance had a story to tell Wednesday afternoon during the third annual State of the Schools address at Martins West.

In fact, he had many stories to tell.

During his address to more than 1,000 county, state, and national educators, elected and business leaders, and students and parents, he talked of directing the energies and focus of Team BCPS on meeting the unique educational needs of every student across the academic spectrum.

“Every student has his or her own story, including the young people we have heard from today,” Dance said, reflecting the gala’s theme of “Our Schools, Our Students, and Our Stories.” “Together, these stories are reflected in the progress we’re making toward graduating every student globally competitive.”

With its new academic initiatives on solid footing, BCPS has plenty of backing to move forward, Dance said. Announcing details of the latest BCPS Stakeholder Survey, Dance said more than 74,000 responded to the survey this year – 85 percent more than the 44,000 who participated in 2014. Strong majorities of the 9,600 parent responses rated as effective both their child’s school (91 percent) and the school system (87 percent, up from 80 percent last year).

Yet while stakeholders generally approve of the school system’s direction and the job it is doing, Dr. Dance told State of the Schools attendees that more can and should be done to ensure that every BCPS graduate is globally competitive.

“This information is validation that we’re on the right track, and while we must pause to celebrate our successes, we must not forget that there is certainly much more work to be done,” Dance said.

Dance said much of that work would be centered around establishing greater equity for students and more student resources.  Increasing access to opportunity, he said, is crucial if all students are to succeed, and he cited a recent $1.5 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation to BCPS as an example of how resources will be used to address equity issues.

“We’re directing these resources at closing the achievement gap because we need every student to grow every year toward college and career readiness, whether the student starts below grade level, on grade level, or above grade level,” he said. “A deliberate focus on equity takes courage but is clearly the right thing to do.”

Again sounding the importance of student voices, Dance told State of the Schools guests about the system’s move to learner-centered environments. Launched this school year, the learner-centered environment personalizes the learning experience and represent a “fundamental and cultural shift in the roles and expectations for each teacher and student,” Dance said.

“The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is, ‘Who owns the classroom?’ In BCPS, we want our nearly 110,000 students to own our classrooms,” he said.

Key to a learner-centered classroom is S.T.A.T., Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow, which Dance said would set a path toward graduating students globally competitive by making sure that each has access to an effective, digital learning environment by the 2017-2018 school year.

He also noted the success of the system’s Second Language Acquisition program, which also began this school year. “According to the Institute for International Education, if an individual is able to speak English, Spanish, and Chinese by 2020, he or she will be able to participate in 90 percent of the world’s economy,” he said. “Therefore, it is imperative that we continue providing (that) opportunity.

“Looking ahead,” Dance added, “imagine the many stories that will be told by our students once given the opportunity (through Second Language Acquisition).”

Dance also touched on several other ways BCPS is responding to student needs, including additional Grade 9 supports and resources to increase graduation rates, more hands-on, responsive, and intensive teacher training, and  broadband and wireless in every school for faster Internet speeds and greater online capacity.

“It still amazes me that there is Wi-Fi at Starbucks and McDonalds, but not in all of the classrooms across our great country,” he said.

“I never take for granted how critical it is for each of us – students, families, community members, leaders, and staff – to do our part to prepare students for success in the future and to continue working together as a team,” he added.

“That’s why I fundamentally believe our story is resonating with so many people – our deliberate focus on the culture of teamwork. Together, we can and will continue doing amazing work for our schools and our students so that they can continue realizing their stories.”

Befitting the theme of the day, the event celebrated the talents and achievements of Baltimore County’s school students, including creative student artwork throughout the event and dance, instrumental, and vocal performances from students across Baltimore County.

In addition to guests, viewers at home or in their offices also tuned in via live-stream at The complete archived video can be seen at or on BCPS-TV, available on Comcast cable channel 73 or Verizon FiOS channel 34. Two re-caps of the event can be found on the following links:

The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools hosted the event in conjunction with more than 50 business sponsors. Daly Computers was the event’s Achievement/Excellence sponsor.