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Limiting classroom discussion: Censorship or prudence?

August 29th, 2014 3 comments

Washingtonpost.com:

 

The superintendent of a school district in Illinois has issued a directive banning any discussion in classrooms of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen killed Aug. 9 by a white police officer, or the civil unrest that followed in Ferguson, Mo.

KMOX-TV reports that Superintendent Ed Hightower of Edwardsville District 7 Schools made the decision after some parents complained that some teachers were expressing personal opinions during discussions with students in their classrooms. The station report says:

Superintendent Ed Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.

“However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown,” he says.

He says teachers have been told not to discuss it and if students bring it up, they should change the subject.

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Maybe principals should not have degrees…..?????

August 13th, 2014 10 comments

Washingtonpost.com:

Robin Anthony Toogood II was an admired educator, the kind of principal who inspires loyalty among other teachers for his compassion and positive attitude. To his students, he was a role model who commanded respect, a leader who handled discipline infractions with a gentle hand.

But according to local schools officials, Toogood harbored a secret throughout his 15-year career in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia schools: Although he claimed to be highly educated — saying he had a doctorate — in reality he was a college dropout.

Former colleagues said they were surprised that Toogood appears to have repeatedly landed teaching and administrative jobs while providing fake or embellished credentials, as Virginia education officials have alleged. Those who worked with him said Toogood was known for his gregarious charm, warm smile and innate leadership qualities.

“He would have been the last person you would have ever expected to lie,” said Katie Holland, a former substitute teacher at St. Michael the Archangel, a Catholic elementary school in Silver Spring where Toogood worked as an assistant principal during the 2007-2008 school year.

You know, this sort of thing probably goes on more frequently than we know about.  Granted, it takes real cajones to pull off an educational heist such as this one but there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.  Listen to how Mr. Toogood is described.  He sounds like the ideal principal, doesn’t he?

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School board considers scrapping 11th grade writing project

June 6th, 2014 12 comments

Let’s see what Calvin has to say about writing:

calvin-writing2

Bristowbeat.com:

If the School Board approves, 11th grade students in Prince William County schools will no longer be required to submit and pass a formal research paper as a requirement for graduation.

School Board members heard arguments from teachers and administrators Wednesday night as to whether they should delete Regulation 600-1, which dictates the research paper requirement.

Supervisor of Language Arts Roberta Apostolakis said she believes deleting the graduation requirement and allowing for more writing within the curriculum would “absolutely strengthen” writing within language arts classes.

In her presentation, Roberta Apostolakis emphasized that the rigorous research-based writing, which is embedded throughout the K-12 curricula and the evidence collected throughout a student’s career, exceeds one “narrowly defined assignment.” She asked that the School Board approve making the English 11 research paper “an embedded part of the English curriculum rather than a separate graduation requirement.”

According to Apostolakis, the research paper took too much time out of the 11th grade curriculum, was weighted too heavily and did not vary the assignment to the level of the student.

No kidding.  From a parent point of view, this requirement is worse than a science fair project on steroids.  In fact, I would venture to say the graduation requirement is tantamount to child abuse.  Can we start with the notion that not everyone is going to college?

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55 Colleges under scrutiny for handling of sexual violence intestigations

May 2nd, 2014 5 comments

no

Washingtonpost.com:

The release Thursday of a federal list of 55 colleges with open “sexual violence investigations” underscores that the twin problem of how to prevent and respond to sex assaults on campus has become a national question, touching schools from elite privates to large publics to small regional schools.

The list from the Education Department continues the Obama administration’s push to shine a spotlight on sex assault in response to questions raised in recent years about how prominent colleges have handled rape allegations and related issues. This week, a White House task force released a report aiming to help colleges prevent sex assaults.

There were four schools listed from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia: Catholic University of America, Frostburg State University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia.
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Loudoun County suffer school money woes–face sex ed cuts

April 22nd, 2014 1 comment

Washingtonpost.com:

Budget cuts being considered by the Loudoun County School Board this week are far-reaching. They could affect class size, foreign language offerings and the availability of full-day kindergarten.

They could also affect sex education.

The county has 19 specially trained Family Life educators who could lose their positions, as the board tries to reconcile a $38 million gap between its proposed budget and what county supervisors appropriated this month.

 

In many Virginia counties, trained health and physical education teachers cover the state Family Life Education standards, which include lessons about healthy families and relationships, as well as human reproduction and sexuality. In Loudoun, Family Life teachers who specialize in the curriculum, which was adopted in 1990, rotate among schools.

LeGrys said that the Loudoun program is often considered a model in the state. Parents are able to have their children opt out of classes addressing sensitive topics, but only about 2 percent do, LeGrys said, indicating a high level of trust in the county’s program.

Some Family Life Education teachers have addressed the board during budget hearings to stress the benefits of having specialized teachers leading sensitive discussions. The teachers have helped identify children who are victims of sexual abuse, and the county’s teenage pregnancy rate has plummeted over the past 20 years, they said.

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‘Hoos Against Hazing? Apparently not all of them

April 21st, 2014 11 comments

anti hazing

UVA’s statement and definition on HAZING:

Hazing

Pressuring a potential new member or a new member to do anything against her/his will. Hazing is STRICTLY PROHIBITED and IS NOT tolerated at the University.

Apparently the ‘Hoo statement was not embodied by all because 2 charters have just been pulled by UVA because of hazing.  People just assume the banned fraternities are minority frat houses.  Such is not the case.  One of the fraternities was a founding charter member.

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McAuliffe vetoes school religious bill

April 7th, 2014 7 comments

From the Richmond Times Dispatch:

A bill that would have codified the rights of students to pray, participate in religious activities or wear faith-themed clothing on public school property at public events was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe Friday.

The school prayer-bill veto of Senate Bill 236, the third of McAuliffe’s term, followed a recent veto of a similarly themed bill governing prayer by chaplains in the Virginia National Guard.

Sponsored by state Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., R-Grayson, the legislation would have required every school system to have a policy allowing students to make religious speeches at any school event in which students are allowed to speak. It also would have removed the liability of school systems for allowing religious speech by having administrators offer disclaimers that student views are not endorsed by the school division.

Supporters said the legislation would protect religious liberty. But the governor disagreed.

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Parents flare up over stolen recess

March 9th, 2014 2 comments

There is a hue and cry over Superintendent Walts plan to shave 5 minutes off of elementary recess from now until the end of the year, to make up for lost instructional time due to snow days. To date, PWC has missed 12 days and has had 5 2 hour delays because of inclement weather.

Some parents are showing their displeasure by signing a petition to add 5 minutes on to the end of the day rather than shave the time off of recess.

From Haymarketbeat.com:

Bristow Beat’s Facebook page also saw an outcry against the decision to shorten recess. Parents argued that young children have to sit through too much structured activity as it is in the school day, and that recess is a good opportunity to allow them to be children.

“Kids today spend almost all of their time in structured activities or in front of a screen (tv, video games, computer, cell phone, ipod) with no opportunity to learn to entertain themselves and be active for fun, EXCEPT SCHOOL RECESS,” one woman commented. “Cut that back and then they wonder why kids have such issues with attention span, creative thinking, etc. The business of childhood is play.”

Many parents commenting agreed that recess is a necessity so that students could come back to class refreshed and ready to learn. They expressed their fear that with a shortened recess children’s behavior and academic ability would suffer.

I think adding 5 minutes to the end of the day sounds good but on the other hand, who knows what all in involved with adding 5 minutes to everything involving transportion. There are probably things the average Joe just hasn’t thought about. Which brings up another point. Why is it up to the schools to fix what ails kids?

“Kids today spend almost all of their time in structured activities or in front of a screen (tv, video games, computer, cell phone, ipod) with no opportunity to learn to entertain themselves and be active for fun, EXCEPT SCHOOL RECESS,” one woman commented.

What am I missing here?  Isn’t it the responsibility of the parents to take these toys  and screens away from their children and to chase their kids outside?  It now sounds like this is something the schools have to provide for kids–live without technology.  Back in the day, when my kids were kids, turned off the TV, took away the video games and  I chased them outside.  They were gone from sun up to sun down, off being kids.  Yes, we had perverts back in the dark ages so I don’t want to hear that as an excuse.  Kids are actually safer nowadays, they have cell phones which serve as a leash.

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Categories: Education/Schools, General, PWC Schools Tags:

Taking care of the schools: NOW

February 18th, 2014 6 comments

supply room

As Prince William County begins its budget deliberations, I want to encourage the supervisors to remember the poor, beleaguered schools, their students and their teachers.   As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a county to do the right thing by its schools.  The BOCS must set the current tax rate.

Regardless of political correctness or other artificial constraints some folks will attempt to put on the situation, the BOCS needs to do 2 things.  They need to set the tax rate high enough to start bringing the schools up to snuff after the long , lean period following the housing crash that began in 2007.   They they need to give the School Board a little larger slice of the pie.

The school system needs to do three things:

1.  Start reducing class size.

2.  Give teachers and other employees a raise.

3.  Make basic supplies more readily available.

Frankly, no one wants to hear the old tea party rallying call to ‘Stop Spending.’   Those words are simplistic answers for simplistic people.  The average person has no idea what programs are mandated and what programs are not.  I have spent more years in the system than most folks and I don’t know all the ins and outs in that regard.  No one does when dealing with a hugely complex system like Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax or Stafford.

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Pre-School: For want of a nail a shoe was lost…for want of a shoe….

January 20th, 2014 3 comments

preschool_enroll2

Washingtonpost.com:

Prince William County qualified for enough state funding this year to provide pre-kindergarten classes to more than 1,600 children from low-income families. But the county turned down nearly all of that money and instead serves just 72 children in four classrooms.

Manassas Park was eligible for state funding to help 104 children prepare for kindergarten, but its program serves just 36.

Across Virginia, about $23 million designated for preschool was left on the table because localities — citing limited resources, lack of classroom space and politics — did not contribute the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. As a result, more than 6,000 disadvantaged children missed the opportunity to go to school before kindergarten.

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Candland and Stewart: two peas in a pod

November 26th, 2013 34 comments

Potomaclocal.com:

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland held a town hall Thursday night at Alvey Elementary School in Haymarket to speak to area residents about what he said is the need to “act right away” to provide more funds to the county school board to cut class sizes, which are now at their maximum capacity, he said. The number of students in classrooms is larger than those of schools in neighboring Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to a Washington Area Board of Education report.

Candland advocates raising the amount of money the School Board automatically gets from the county in an annual budget transfer, which is currently 57.23% of the county budget, to allow the Board to hire additional teachers and to pay them salaries comparable to what educators earn in surrounding counties.

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Virginia schools fall from 93% to 77% accredited

September 23rd, 2013 Comments off

WJLA.com:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia education officials say new, more rigorous assessment tests drove down the number of schools meeting state standards.

The Virginia Department of Education says 77 percent of Virginia’s public schools are fully accredited after meeting state benchmarks. That’s down from 93 percent last year.

Officials say 1,413 of the state’s 1,828 schools met objectives on 2012-13 Standards of Learning tests and other assessments in English, mathematics, science and history – and, for high schools, graduation.

The number of schools accredited with warning nearly quadrupled to 395, and six schools have been denied state accreditation because of chronically low achievement.

Over the last two years, the state has implemented new math, English and science tests aimed at better preparing students for college or post-graduation employment.

Is it time for hysterics? Are Virginia schools going to hell in a hand basket?  No.  New tests have been implemented over the past two years.  Make no mistake.  It is all political.

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The Pledge of Allegiance: One nation, under God

September 3rd, 2013 22 comments

pledge

Schools open again today and across the nation, millions of kids will be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It sounds harmless enough.  However, to some parents, the phrase “under God” is unacceptable in schools.  The parents feel that the Pledge tears down the wall of separation between church and state because it contains the words, “under God.”.   The Pledge heads back to court in the very near future.  How does it hurt anyone to say two little bitty words?

That isn’t the point.  Kids are a captive audience forced to recite something their parents find objectionable.  Can kids be pulled out?  Of course.  However, pulling a student out of the pledge makes them stand out–opt out programs always call attention to those who dare to be different.

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Standing ovation for Mount Vernon High’s dress code

August 28th, 2013 38 comments

jeggings

Washingtonpost.com:

When students at Fairfax County’s Mount Vernon High School return to classes next week, they no longer will be allowed to wear “jeggings” as pants.

What exactly are jeggings? They are the fashion cousin of leggings, the skin-tight staples found in many high school hallways. Jeggings are leggings with a faux-denim appearance, providing the tailored jean look that is in vogue among teenagers. To dress in leggings or jeggings, Mount Vernon students must wear them underneath shorts, dresses or skirts that are at most three inches above the knee, according to school regulations.

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Antoinette Tuff: a real hero!

August 22nd, 2013 7 comments

I think that the word hero is tossed about was too casually and way too often.  We call people ‘heroes’ when they really have done nothing out of the ordinary or heroic.  However, Antoinette Tuff, bookkeeper at Ronald E, McNair Discovery Learning Academy, showed heroism in the face of danger that most people couldn’t imagine.  She showed compassion, strength, and calm demeanor during what could have been a deadly situation.  She saved literally hundreds of lives when a lone gunman toting an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammo slipped into a locked door at her school.

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abcnews.com:

 The 911 tapes from a frightening standoff and shooting at an Atlanta-area school show how a school employee’s calm demeanor and kind approach helped end the ordeal without any injuries.

Police said Wednesday that school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff was heroic in how she responded after being taken hostage a day earlier by Michael Brandon Hill, a 20-year-old man with a history of mental health issues. Hill went to the school armed with an AK 47-style rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition, police said.

On a recording of a 911 call released Wednesday, Tuff can be heard relaying messages from Hill to DeKalb County emergency dispatchers before convincing him to surrender. She tells the dispatcher that Hill said he wasn’t there to hurt the children but wanted to talk to an unarmed officer.

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