78°Scattered Clouds

by Andrea Swalec — September 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm 484 0

Sen. Tim Kaine promoted career and technical education Sept. 10, 2014 at a panel discussion held at the Capitol.Eliminating the stigma against technical education will help young Virginians get better jobs, Sen. Tim Kaine said at a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol, where two Arlington teachers spoke about their successes in the field.

Young people can get better-paying jobs if the perception of high school job-skills courses is changed from an option for failing students to a smart choice, Kaine said. The discussion was held by the national education coalition Advocates for Literacy and the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, of which Kaine is co-chair.

“This big-picture goal which our caucus is related to is de-stigmatizing [career and technical education] and making it really hot, sexy and cool,” he said. “Technical education is coming back strong and it’s something we can celebrate.”

Jeffrey Elkner and Sean Kinnard, both teachers at the Arlington Public Schools-run Arlington Career Center, described how giving youth practical skills motivates them.

“Students who would be turned off otherwise make real-world connections,” said Elkner, who teaches math and information technology at the career center. Located at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive, the school trains more than 1,100 students a day in programs including animal science, cosmetology and automotive technology.Arlington Career Center teachers Sean Kinnard, left, and Jeffrey Elkner spoke at the Capitol on Sept. 10, 2014 about their successes in career and technical education.

Kinnard spoke about a teen from Afghanistan who was disengaged in ordinary high school classes but had a passion for cars. After participating in the school’s two-year auto tech program, the teen now works for a Mercedes dealer.

“The program got him the industry credentials he needed to get his job,” said Kinnard, who teaches English as a Second Language.

Kaine described a disconnect between job seekers’ skills and the positions available.

“There’s a mismatch right now between the unemployment rate and positions going unfilled, and what that means is we’re not training people in the right skills,” he said. “[Career and technical education] is probably the best thing you can do to realign that so the skills match up with the needs.”

The junior senator introduced on Wednesday the Middle School Technical Education Program Act, which would encourage middle school students to explore technical career options and provide access to apprenticeships.

by Katie Pyzyk — November 26, 2013 at 8:45 am 1,782 0

Tightrope walker in Quincy Park

Strayer to Cut Tuition — Arlington based Strayer Education Inc. will cut undergraduate tuition for new students by up to 40 percent next year. The move is intended to curb declining enrollment. Total enrollment for the fall term was down 17 percent, while new enrollments fell by 23 percent. [Washington Business Journal]

Yorktown Loses in Quarterfinal — The Yorktown Patriots lost to the undefeated Lake Braddock Bruins in the Region 6A North quarterfinal regional game. The 40-7 loss left the Patriots finishing the season with a 9-3 record. This was the eighth straight year the Patriots advanced to the playoffs. [Sun Gazette]

Homophobic Message on Cake? — A couple in the District claims to have bought a cake at an Arlington bakery that sported a homophobic message. One woman ordered the cake for her partner, reportedly asking for a cluster of balloons to be replaced with the words “Happy Anniversary Lindsey! Love, Sarah.” Upon receiving the cake, it instead featured the sloppily written phrase “Lesbian Anniv. No Ballons.” The woman says she believes the mistake was intentional. The bakery was not identified by name. [The Gaily Grind, The Advocate]

by ARLnow.com — November 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm 1,388 0

FLES participation (courtesy FLES For All)A vocal group of parents who have been advocating for foreign language education in all Arlington elementary schools once again took their case to the County Board over the weekend.

The Sun Gazette reports that “several dozen” supporters of the Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) program showed up for the public comment period of Saturday’s Board meeting. They asked the Board to find a way to work with Arlington Public Schools and the School Board to expand FLES to the 9 schools that currently don’t have the program.

Meanwhile, a group called FLES For All released an open letter to county and school leaders over the weekend. The group, which claims 25-30 active members “who work weekly to educate and advocate on this issue,” blasted “educational inequity” in Arlington and called on the County Board to provide a greater share of tax revenue.

The full letter, after the jump.

Image via FLES For All

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by Katie Pyzyk — August 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm 1,582 0

aps_logoArlington Public Schools released its 2013 Standards of Learning (SOL) test results in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) release of the statewide results. Although Arlington students performed better than their peers in most categories, they joined students across the state in a significant drop in English reading scores.

Arlington’s Grade 8 English reading pass rate this year is 77 percent, compared with 71 percent for all of Virginia. However, Arlington’s 8th graders scored a 90 percent pass rate last year.

A likely explanation for the local and statewide drop in English scores is the introduction of a more rigorous exam. The VDOE’s website says:

“The English and science SOL tests students took during 2012-2013 were the first to reflect the increased rigor of revised standards adopted in these subject areas by the Board of Education in 2010. Last year also marked the debut of online SOL writing tests, although all schools participated in a statewide field test of the assessments during 2011-2012. As expected, pass rates on the new tests were lower than in 2011-2012 on the now-retired assessments based on the 2002 English SOL and 2003 Science SOL.”

After reviewing the results, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said, “As we continue to focus on the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan, these results serve as a barometer for our work and progress at this point. It is clear that our instructional team is working to meet these higher standards to ensure that our students master the new, more challenging expectations. While work remains to ensure that all students are succeeding at all levels, these results are encouraging.”

Last year, similar drops were seen on math scores with the implementation of a more difficult math test. Math scores held relatively steady this year, with 8th graders scoring 67 percent, compared with 68 last year. This year’s 8th graders around the state scored 61 percent.

The full results for all subjects and grade levels in Arlington and in Virginia are available online.

by ARLnow.com — May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am 2,535 0

TEDxRosslyn logoArlington will host its very own TEDx conference on Sunday, June 9.

TEDxRosslyn will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Top of the Town conference facility (1400 14th Street N.).

The theme of the independently-organized conference is “Imagining the Future.”

“TEDxRosslyn is a gathering of thought leaders and heads of industry that are using bold ideas and innovating methods to reshape our city and the rest of the world,” according to event organizers. “TEDxRosslyn will be a cumulation of in-person talks from amazing speakers, recorded videos from the official TED conference, and time and activities for the attendees to connect to each and hopefully create lasting relationships.”

Speakers at TEDxRosslyn will each deliver short talks, demonstrations or performances on a wide variety of topics. Scheduled speakers include:

  • Jenn Gustetic — Challenges and Prizes Progam Executive, NASA
  • Aneri Patel — Senior Associate, Energy Access at UN Foundation
  • Ashraf Khalil — Cairo-based Correspondent, The Times of London
  • Carmen Medina — Former Deputy Director for Intelligence, CIA
  • Eneida Alcalde — Executive Director, Ed-Futuro
  • Jacob Marshal — Senior Connector, More Partnerships
  • Joshua Haynes — Senior Development Technologist, USAID
  • Kara Shuler — Strategy and Innovation Senior Consultant, Deloitte
  • Liz Norton — Director, Stone Soup Films
  • Margot MacDonald — Singer/Songwriter
  • Michelle Zelsman — Director of Marketing and Communications, National Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Patrick Tucker — Deputy Editor, THE FUTURIST Magazine
  • P.D. Klein — Co-founder, FabLab DC
  • Robert Engelman — President, Worldwatch Institute
  • Sharon Terry — President and CEO, Genetic Alliance
  • Steve Davis — Director of Advanced Projects, SpaceX
  • Tim Cannon — Co-Founder, Grindhouse
  • Dan Brown — Author and Teacher
  • Alan Holden — Senior Consultant, Deloitte

Tickets for the event are $45 online. Video from TEDxRosslyn will also be streamed online.

by Katie Pyzyk — April 18, 2013 at 11:00 am 581 0

A CubeSat device (photo via Wikipedia)(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) are taking part in what has been dubbed “Mission Possible.” It’s a rare opportunity build a satellite and launch it into orbit.

According to an article published this week by Satnews.com, students will get assistance from a NASA Mission Manager in building a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite used for space research. The satellite will collect data to be used for school research in math and science.

STM computer teacher Melissa Pore is helping to manage the project. She said yesterday was the official kick off and construction should begin in about two weeks.

“The really unique part about it is making the projects tie in to what’s already expected in the classroom, and giving that real world simulation for the kids,” Pore said. “Every student will have a part and will touch a piece of the hardware, whether they’re screwing in a bolt or putting together an onboard camera, they will all have a part.”

One of the things the satellite is expected to do is to take wide angle photos of small asteroids, of Earth and of St. Thomas More Cathedral School.

More than 60 high schools and universities participate in the CubeSat program, but STM would be the country’s first Pre-K through 8th grade elementary school to participate. The goal is to launch the CubeSat in late 2014.

STM received a donation of $10,000 to assist with the satellite launch from ATK Space Systems. The school has also received equipment such as solar panels and cameras from space industry donors. Anyone interested in donating additional resources or time to the project should contact Melissa Pore at mpore@stmschool.org.

CubeSat photo via Wikipedia

by Mark Kelly — March 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm 560 30 Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyIt’s a busy week in Arlington with varied possible topics to discuss in this space. The governor signs a transportation bill and vetoes an Arlington hotel tax, the school boundary debate continues, there are three public forums to raise concerns with the County Board, and there’s Peter’s Take on Ken Cuccinelli.

Governor McDonnell signed the largest tax increase in Virginia history to pay for his transportation plan. It includes regional taxing authority and projected revenue from an online sales tax that may never materialize. While many on my side of the political fence did not support the tax plan, we are hoping that the new transportation dollars will go farther than they did on the $1 million bus stop here in Arlington.

The Governor vetoed the Arlington hotel tax which, somewhat surprisingly, made it through the General Assembly. Since the tax is paid by guests from other places, its rejection seems to come down to the fact that Arlington gets no special love from elected officials in Richmond. Of course, it seems the feeling is mutual.

There is no less enviable job in the world than being on any school board that has to change boundaries. No matter the overcrowding issues in any school, telling parents their children may have to move from one school to another is no easy task. The Arlington School Board hopes for consensus, but I imagine there are four board members who are glad they are not on the ballot this year.

Mr. Rousselot’s attack on Attorney General Cuccinelli was an over the top campaign scare tactic. Rousselot said that Cuccinelli “would exploit every opportunity to set Virginia’s women back 60 years to an era in which they were ‘stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude.’” Certainly, for any voter who bases their vote on the issue of abortion, there is no doubt where the two candidates stand. To make the leap to “drudgery” and “domestic servitude” strains the bounds of credibility. For insight into the Attorney General’s view of women, before he ran for any office, see this Washington Post profile.

The County Board is holding three public forums this week. While many people have shown up with statements and questions, I think we have all learned by now that the Board will do what they want to do. If the public input fits into their agenda, all the better. If not, that will probably be okay with them too.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mark Kelly — March 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm 1,102 39 Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyAccording to Arlington County, it will cost $2,858 to produce records in response to a recent FOIA request on the Columbia Pike trolley project.

The FOIA request was for e-mails, memos and other specified documents between county staff, consultants and County Board members in regards to the preference of a particular station for the Skyline trolley stop, the location of the maintenance facility, traffic impacts on Columbia Pike during construction, economic development, and other issues.

Of that $2,858 cost, $2,341 would go to AECOM — the County’s consultant on the project and County Board member Chris Zimmerman’s new employer. The effective rate per hour for AECOM’s work is approximately $180 when you include their expenses and fees. Is it any wonder Zimmerman signed a consulting contract with them? Good work if you can get it.

The county’s share made up the additional $517, a bargain by comparison, at an hourly rate of just under $65 per hour.

No average citizen can fork over $2,858 for copies of these documents. The county seems to be hiding behind this cost to keep the documents out of public view, signaling an aversion to transparency when it comes to the massive project.

What the county staff should do is offer to provide all of their copies of the documents requested for $517. Since the county was in receipt of virtually all requested documents, this seems like a reasonable solution to provide an appropriate level of transparency.

Speaking of numbers that do not add up, the Arlington Public School superintendent recently released a proposed budget for next year.

The total topline spending number in Superintendent Murphy’s budget was $520.4 million. The total projected enrollment is 23,586. For those of you with calculators, that equals $22,063 per student.

According to the superintendent’s budget presentation, however, we will be spending $18,709 per pupil. So, the published amount provided to the public is $3,354 or 18% less than the actual amount.

By my quick “back of the envelope” calculations, it seems as though the superintendent only counts $441 million of the $520 million in his per pupil numbers. I can only assume from his presentation that state and federal aid do not count. However, based on Arlington’s median income, I think we can safely say that Arlington taxpayers pay more than their fair share of state and federal taxes. In other words, Arlingtonians are picking up this share of the school funding tab as well.

I am sure someone has a politically expedient explanation for why this spending does not count in the per pupil calculation. But, it seems disingenuous to people who care about things like accountability, transparency, or even math. This is coming from our school superintendent after all.

Regardless of whether you think we do not spend enough on our schools, too much, or just right, shouldn’t we be honest about what we are actually spending to educate each of our children?

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Aaron Kraut — August 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm 1,390 18 Comments

Arlington nonprofit Our Task will host an “intergenerational” conference to discuss environmental and global development issues on Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy St.).

Our Task Executive Director Jerry Barney said the conference is aimed at local high school and college students who want to share ideas and discuss what the world will look like in 2100, and what should be done to deal with ongoing deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, population increases and a host of other issues.

“It comes from a growing unease and a growing sense of fear among thoughtful young people that the planet they’re going to inherit is not at all the planet they hope to inherit,” Barney said.

The all-day conference is open to participants of all ages, but for the past six years has attracted mainly local students. They are organized in focus groups and presented with an issue “from the 10,000-foot level,” said Our Task Chair Angeline Cione. They then develop and present solutions.

This year’s opening speaker will be conservation biologist and George Mason University professor Dr. Thomas Lovejoy. Registration is free and will run until the day before the event.

Photo courtesy Jerry Barney

by Katie Pyzyk — May 22, 2012 at 9:35 am 1,548 21 Comments

Coming up with ideas for things to do throughout the summer isn’t always easy. But the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation has hundreds of classes available, and registration opens tomorrow, May 23.

Examples of active kids’ classes are swimming and tennis, creative classes include music and theater, and crafty classes include woodworking and ceramics. A wide range of activities is also available to adults, including knitting, various sports and gardening.

The catalog of courses is available online, as is a request form to have a copy sent through the mail. Registration can be done online starting at 8:00 a.m.

Although registration forms can also be mailed and faxed starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., and phoned or carried in starting on May 30, online registration is recommended to expedite the process.

Registration for those who are not residents of Arlington begins on June 6.

by ARLnow.com — February 13, 2012 at 9:53 am 3,101 79 Comments

A plan to implement block scheduling at Arlington’s five middle schools has been greeted with resistance from parents.

Block scheduling allows extended classes for core subjects — like math and science — in order to increase instruction time. In a Washington Post article that termed block scheduling a “fad,” Arlington Public Schools officials said the system gives teachers greater flexibility for creative and personalized instruction.

School Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy, who installed a block schedule when he was the principal of a middle school in Fairfax County, said regular-length periods are too short for the kind of creative teaching needed. “We are doing a disservice to students to run them through a seven-period day with a 45 minute turnaround,” he said.

Margaret Gilhooley, interim assistant superintendent for instruction, said that, in elementary school, “if a class is not grasping a concept, you can expand the time.” With just 45 minutes in middle school, that is difficult to do.

Parents who oppose the plan contend that block scheduling will have a negative impact on certain types of non-core elective classes, like music, and that middle school students don’t have the attention span for a 90-minute math class. Also, say some parents, why should APS change a scheduling system that’s already producing good educational results?

The School Board is expected to examine the issue in May, while implementation of block scheduling is set for the fall of 2013.

From the perspective of either a parent or of someone who once attended middle school, what do you think about the plan?

by Katie Pyzyk — January 23, 2012 at 9:30 am 2,100 17 Comments

Parent concerns have prompted Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to delay consideration of a plan to institute “block scheduling” at Arlington middle schools.

The change, which has been in the works since 2007, would extend core class times — for subjects like English, math, social studies, science and world languages — while reducing the number of classes per day. Longer “block” periods for sixth graders would be 76 minutes, and would increase to 93 minutes for seventh and eighth graders. Electives would remain at the current, shorter length.

An APS staff presentation to the School Board on the block scheduling plan, originally scheduled for March, has now been pushed back to May. Murphy said the delay will “provide additional time to continue to our ongoing dialogue with families.”

At Thursday night’s packed School Board meeting, numerous parents expressed concerns about the proposed schedule changes. Although block scheduling is already in place at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools, some parents don’t believe it’s the right answer for middle school students. One concern is the attention span of younger students.

“The class length is not developmentally appropriate for 12 and 13 year olds,” said a concerned father.

APS cites research showing quality of instruction and student achievement as one of the main reasons for desiring the change. Students will spend more time delving deeply into core subjects and less time switching classes, school officials say. Research also referenced classes such as science labs that would benefit from fewer stops and starts due to time constraints.

While officials say block scheduling allows for more elective choices, opponents say it would decrease the amount of time students spend in individual elective classes such as music, physical education and arts.

Many speakers at Thursday’s Board meeting insisted that the block scheduling plan would have a particularly negative impact on music classes. In addition to less class time, some parents said the plan’s reported elimination of cross-grade classes will decrease the quality of music education.

“The proposal as currently presented is deeply flawed,” said Swanson Middle School Band Boosters President Katy Banks. “The new proposal doesn’t allow for cross-grade music programs. It’s a little like if the National Symphony Orchestra were asked to select their musicians based on their age and not their ability.”

With implementation scheduled for September 2013, in time for the 2013-2014 school year, APS has until the middle of next school year to revise its block scheduling concept. The school system, meanwhile, will hold five community forums in February to give parents a chance to learn more about the plan and to provide additional feedback about the proposed changes.

More information about the block scheduling plan and the community forums is available on special ‘Middle School Design Team’ section of the APS website.

by ARLnow.com — December 16, 2011 at 8:15 am 896 9 Comments

Life-Like Simulators at Arlington Nursing School — The Chamberlain College of Nursing in Arlington is using simulated humans to train its students. The life-sized, life-like simulators can sweat, breathe, talk, and even give birth — and can be treated by new students without risking life or lawsuit. [WUSA9]

Local Indie Book Store Recognized — One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) in the East Falls Church area has been named one of the “Best Indie Bookstores on Twitter” by Mediabistro. The store, which specializes in books, wine and chocolate, has 857 Twitter followers. [GalleyCat]

CEO Leaves Rosslyn Company — Pete Snyder, the CEO and founder of Rosslyn-based New Media Strategies, has announced he’s leaving the company to pursue other ventures. Snyder sold the company five years but stayed on as CEO. New Media Strategies has 130 employees in Arlington and across the U.S. [AdAge]

Flickr pool photo by Maryva2

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2011 at 10:42 am 507 0

Arlington Independent Media has unveiled the schedule of spring classes for its Master of Independent Media program. The classes offer in-depth instruction for advanced media creators at a relatively low cost — between $150 and $300.

Here’s a list of the classes offered.

  • Introduction to Drupal-Based Web Sites (Feb. 16 – March 30)
  • Photoshop Digital Darkroom (Feb. 24 – March 10)
  • Marketing Media Projects (March 1 – April 5)
  • Digital Still Photography (April 28 – June 2)
  • Location Lighting for Film and Video (March 28 – May 2)
  • Producing and Directing Narrative Works (March 31 – May 5)

by ARLnow.com — January 13, 2011 at 8:44 am 1,359 9 Comments

A fourth grade history textbook is being pulled from all Arlington County public schools because its contains numerous historical errors.

Controversy over the text, Our Virginia: Past and Present, erupted in October when it was revealed that the book contained a dubious passage about black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Fairfax County schools announced on Friday that they would be pulling the text after dozens of additional errors were found. Yesterday, Arlington Public Schools followed suit.

“APS was notified by the [Virginia Department of Education] last Friday, January 7, of the specific errors in the Grade 4 text,” Arlington Public Schools said in a press release. “Based on that information, school officials feel it is in the best interest of students to remove the print version of the textbooks at this time.”

Teachers will use supplemental learning materials in classrooms until a corrected digital version of the textbook becomes available, likely at the end of the month. The publisher will provide corrected print editions of the textbook free of charge this summer.

The school system says it will help train parents who want to learn how to use the digital textbook.

Del. David Englin (D), who represents part of Arlington, has proposed a bill that would require experts to review textbooks before they could be certified for use in Virginia schools.

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