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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com October 31, 2011 at 7:00 am 2,314 72 Comments

Army Reservist Finishes First at MCM — Army Reserve 1st Lt. Charles Ware was the fastest finisher at Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon. With an unofficial time of 2:19:16, Ware handily bested second-place runner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian, who finished at 2:23:46. Coast Guard Lt. Patrick Fernandez placed third. [Marine Corps Times]

VDOT Surveys Residents About I-66 — The Virginia Department of Transportation has sent mailers to Arlington residents who live near I-66, asking them to take an online survey. The survey is part of a multimodal study designed to find ways to reduce traffic congestion on I-66 inside the Beltway. [Washington Examiner]

School Board Wants More Autonomy — The Arlington County School Board is expected to ask the Virginia General Assembly for a degree of freedom from various state mandates. Among other items on its legislative wish list, the school board would like to have the option to start the school year before Labor Day — something that state law forbids in most cases. [Sun Gazette]

Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil

  • Pumpkin Head

    My, what big teeth you have.

  • OddNumber

    I gave up on the VDOT survey. It is a complete waste of time if despite answering no to if you use a specific route to then force you to provide an answer to several questions about the route.

    • Garden City

      I went all the way through it, but as an IT professional, I found it odd that in several places you had to continue through questions that were not consistent with the answers to previous questions. Anything more sophisticated than Survey Monkey should allow to code for appropriate follow-up questions. That being said, it think it is important to complete the survey as best you can. They’re spending real money to get input.

    • Whitney Wilson

      I slogged through the whole thing. I agree with other posters that it asked some seemingly pointless questions, and I would be curious as to whether the survey ultimately generates any useful information.

    • FunnyMunny

      Went thru the whole thing and had a similar experience. At one point it said I had told them that I don’t bike to work, which was not true. But it wouldn’t let me back up to see what had made them conclude that. The survey really needs to be flow-charted and resubmitted.

  • Rosslynite

    How about some morning polls for the various electoral races tomorrow? That way, if my candidates are leading in the polls I know that I do not have to go vote and can roll over and go back to sleep. Thanks in advance.

    • LVGuy

      You’re off by a week. Election day is NEXT tuesday.

  • Fred

    The survey missed out on a couple of really important points. One question they should have asked, depending on your answer, was what would you do if your current method of commute was disallowed. For example, I ride into work with my wife on 66. If they went HOV-3, my next choice would be to drive on other Arlington roads instead of the train or bus. I think that is an important point, especially if Arlington is really that concerned about more traffic. Another question should have been where the survey taker thinks that the congestion problem is. For some reason, even though there aren’t many cars, the Sycamore merge eastbound is the place where everything bottles up. A “spot enhancement” 3rd lane to Glebe/Fairfax or just a longer merge lane would help significantly.

    • Wayne Kubicki

      Fred – the real issue around Sycamore EB is the reduction from three lanes down to two immediately west of there, yes?

      • Josh S

        That’s part of it, the merging cars are part of it, the limited sight lines all along 66 in Arlington are part of it, and the simple fact that most people simply expect a backup there now and begin slowing down and changing langes even when there is no reason to.

        I would wait on the “spot enhancement” third lane until we see how the third lane on the other side of the highway actually works. I’m not convinced that this additional lane will actually cause any significant throughput improvements on westbound 66, so I’m really interested to see the damn thing finally get opened.

        (This by the way, is a good example of how the Chinese are, in some ways, eating our lunch these days. This lane would have been built and open to traffic in a month in China. Why in the Sam H*ll has this thing taken so long?)

        • Wayne Kubicki

          While I think the current WB widening (Fairfax Drive entrance to Sycamore exit) will help the flow at the Fairfax Drive merge, I’ve been skeptical about what kind of choke point will be created at Sycamore (where the road will go back down to 2 lanes from three). I guess we’ll see shortly!

      • Fred

        Wayne,

        I think they are both problems, but even this morning we were flying past the Lee/Wash. exit (losing a lane) and got backed up at Sycamore for no good reason. I think Josh is also right that the sight lines can be a issue.

  • Whitney Wilson

    I see no reason to start school before Labor Day. Why start, and then immediately have a short week. If the issue is not having enough time to prepare for state-mandated tests (hard to believe, since SOL tests are given in May!) and too much time afterwards (not sure why that is a problem), then simply move the test dates back a week. I would love to have someone explain why this wouldn’t cure any alleged “problems” associated with a Tuesday-after-Labor-Day start.

    • drax

      Could start 2 weeks before.

      • Whitney Wilson

        We could, I suppose, but at that point perhaps we should just go to a year-round schedule, like Barrett Elementary does (I think).

        Why is it so important for schools to start in August?

        • Dan

          Because the crops have been harvested by then…….

        • John

          Barcroft is the only year round school in Arlington.

          An August start date has to do with the increased importance of preparedness for the standardized tests/AP tests in the spring. Many schools in other states start as early as the first week in August. Ten or fifteen years ago, starting after Labor Day was never really questioned. But now everyone is obsessed with testing.

        • drax

          Is our children learning?

        • LVGuy

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve read several times that the summer break has been shown to have a dramatically negative effect on learning. Kids lose some of the skills they learned the year before, and teachers have to reteach these skills to students because they spend all summer playing xbox. The reason for the summer break was to tend to the summer harvest (right?), and considering this is Arlington we’re talking about, I don’t think that’s a problem. The big hurdle is trying to convince teachers, parents, and students that this is better for them.

          • Josh S

            Yes, I think it’s always important to not assume that the way things are is the best way or the only way. If we were to start a school system from scratch now, I don’t think we’d be able to come up with any good reason to have ten weeks off in the summer. The year-round systems, with 8 or so weeks on and 2 or so weeks off seem more reasonable. I think this kind of thing for 12 years would allow a greater quantity and variety of material to be taught. I wonder if it would be more expensive for the school systems, though.

          • I don’t know the details, but…

            It’s my understanding (I think, so don’t jump on me if I’m wrong, but feel free to correct me) that APS teachers are paid a salary based on the months/weeks they are in school and although they can have paychecks come to them throughout the year, spreading their salary thinner, they also have the option to receive paychecks for the salary they earn only during the months the school is open (many teachers who work after retirement, or have duel incomes or summer jobs may take this option though the majority space out the payments). SO if that’s true, I would assume unless the number of weeks off is the same as a summer vacation, but simply broken out of the course of a full year and not one slot, that that would have some affect on teacher salaries? I believe they should be raised anyway, but I would assume they would have to be as it’s nearly impossible to get a second job for 2 weeks at a time during your shorter breaks vs a summer job which can go as long as 2 months or just over? Not sure… just guessing…

          • Suburban Not Urban

            It’s called quality of life. Academics rating academic achievement does not necessarily mean that kids(and families) have a better life. Don’t expect the state to do everything for you, if you want to school your kids all year round – do it and sacrifice all the other things they get from summer break.

  • Rick

    It’s important we go against the State every possible time we can…

  • ArlSouth

    They would start 2 weeks before Labor Day and the testing dates cannot just be “moved,” they are mandated by the state. And as long as schools and soon teachers will be judged by SOL scores, it would benefit the schools to have 2 extra weeks of preparation. In some cases, those scores determine someone’s job.

    In addition, AP and IB tests are given internationally early in May and students from other states/countries gain an advantage over VA students because of the extra two weeks they have to prepare.

    • Whitney Wilson

      AP and IB tests cannot be moved unilaterally by Virginia. But I can’t believe that starting one week (or even two weeks) later than other schools makes a material difference over 8 months of preparation (September,October, November, December, January, February, March, and April.)

      Certainly Virginia-mandated SOL test dates can be changed by Virginia, especially since – in theory – all or most Virginia schools should be starting after Labor Day.

  • schmexdc

    Kids in Arlington County will be in school until June 22nd this school year ,the latest in state. There are many opportunities that our high school students miss out on (there is more that just Governor’s School) because they are in school until so late in June. Personally, I’d like to see kids start before Labor Day and end a little earlier.

  • KalashniKEV

    I wondered why they didn’t just ask for specific permission to start school earlier… but if you follow the link you can clearly see what ridiculous items are on their agenda- no seat belts, entitlements for criminal aliens, opposition to school vouchers, propping up flunkies, and fat bennies for teachers.

    Like the SG article said, it brought a “wry smile” to my face…
    😉

    • drax

      Your defense of government mandates brought a wry smile to my face, Kev.

    • Josh S

      I suspect that the reason for opposing the mandated seat belts has mostly to do with cost? You know, government spending, the thing that you hate so much?

      What’s that? You think that the safety of the children justifies the expense? So it’s not government spending, per se, that you oppose, it’s the specific PROGRAMS that the money is spent on? Oh, so your arguments and stance are basically the same as every other citizen of the country? And how do you propose that we, as a society, should deal with the fact that we can’t all agree on any particular program / allocation of the budget? Maybe a majority vote could work? And the programs that the majority want and vote for (or their representatives vote for) are the ones that are chosen and that’s the end of the story, then, right? (With some exceptions to avoid the tyranny of the majority and preserve individual rights.) That seems pretty workable, doesn’t it? Sort of a recipe for civil society?

      But we all hope that you won’t lend your voice to those cretins who can’t accept majority rule and instead want to go around to the back door and instead of arguing about the merits of individual programs try to dry up revenue instead – figuring that if they’ve been frustrated through the political process and don’t have a majority of Americans who agree with them, they can dream up fringe and absurd arguments like – taxation is theft and charity can do everything the government does and do it better, etc and get people mad about taxes while conveniently ignoring all of the benefits that the average person gets as a result of their taxes and somehow being distracted enough to not realize that when adjustments to the tax code have been made over the years, they somehow mysteriously seem to benefit mostly the rich.

      • drax

        Kev hates government regulation, except when he doesn’t.

      • KalashniKEV

        This response prompted my second wry smile of the day! This is going to be a great week! 😉

        I’d find it quite curious if the Arlington County School Board was trying to save money on safety devices for our children while at the same time promoting, neigh, Championing the Criminal Alien agenda.

        Quite curious, indeed!
        :):):)

        Thank goodness for the Dillon Rule.

        DILLON!
        /Predator

        • drax

          Nice try at back-pedaling, Kev.

          • KalashniKEV

            I’ve already hit school vouchers below… what’s left?

            Flunkies? Creating an endless series of second chances is what created a generation of man-children/ lovable slackers. A child is supposed to feel like a Failure after Failing.

            Fat Bennies? Time to end tenure and introduce pay-for-performance nationwide. It’s not like we don’t have oodles of metrics to rate teachers performance against their peers.

          • Josh S

            Flunkies – SOLs start in third grade. So we should be weeding out the successes and failures at nine years old? Is that the point of school, to winnow down the pool of competitors for society’s spoils? I thought it was to educate youth so as to make for a better society.

            Fat Bennies – Actually, I tend to agree with you that tenure is a bad thing. However, I sure do wish you could articulate those “oodles of metrics” in a way that could possibly account for the multiplicity of factors outside teacher control that affect a given student’s learning / ability to score well on tests / grades in general.
            In case you can’t, it doesn’t really matter because I don’t think what the school board is asking for in terms of freedom from the state’s meddling in teacher retirement accounts has anything, at all, to do with pay-for-performance.

          • KalashniKEV

            Flunkies- So once a student starts to do poorly, you assume he will spiral into tailspin of failure that will ruin his life? You don’t think he might find the motivation to constantly strive to improve his grades and enter more challenging curricula? In addition to his or her own internal motivation, you don’t think there will be parental “motivation” to do better?

            Fat Bennies- Oodles of Metrics are test scores. AFA “the multiplicity of factors outside teacher control” I think we all deal with things in our jobs every day that we don’t control. We adapt and overcome. Teachers who do will be rewarded. Those who do not will be punished.

          • drax

            Wouldn’t want kids to get second chances. Send them straight to the streets or jail!

            Pay for performance is a great idea. Let’s even fire some parents outright.

    • dk

      I got in trouble at a PTA meeting once for calling the seat belt on school buses issue a tempest in a teapot. Needless to say, the vocal advocates of seat belts did not appreciate my characterization. However, the fact remains that seat belts on school buses make no economic sense.

      Because of the design of school buses (their size & weight gives them a great advantage in most crashes, the seats are high-backed and padded), the risk of being hurt or killed on a school bus is actually close to zero, even without seat belts. On average, about 10 children die in school bus crashes every year. That’s out of about 25 million kids who ride a school bus every day. Your child is **13 times** safer riding unbuckled in a school bus than he is riding buckled up in your car. The risk of a child dying on the way to school is higher for those walking on sidewalks than it is for those riding on a school bus without seat belts. In fact, a child is more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than she is to die on a school bus. So let’s get a grip, there are far more worthwhile uses for public monies than bus seat belts.

      • Thes

        Clearly, you hate children.
        /s

      • KalashniKEV

        What about injuries caused when a school bus is involved in an accident or rollover and children, books, and lunchboxes all become projectiles inside?

        I guess the children should just be happy with a new set of teeth and the fact that they didn’t die, right?

        SEATBELTS!!!

        It’s for the children!!!

        • drax

          You’re such an ivory-tower liberal, Kev, arrogantly imposing your views on the people at the local level through regulation.

        • dk

          I can say with certainty that unless we mandate seat belts for books and lunchboxes as well as children, no seat belt mandate is going to prevent those items from becoming projectiles in the event of a crash or rollover.

          • Josh S

            I think Kev was kidding. He didn’t have any real response, so figured he’d have a laugh, instead.

      • FunnyMunny

        Yes, but about killer bees? Do seat belts keep them safe from killer bees? I hate killer bees! I think Caren Merrick is soft on killer bees.

        • KalashniKEV

          I actually have to agree with you there.

          Favola has a much better record on this issue. Babs is just a plain old run of the mill “B.”

  • DiversityArlington?

    Anybody catch yesterday’s WaPo front page article on the spread of “diverse” neighborhoods around the Washington area? According to the maps, North Arlington stands out as a fortress of non-diversity.

    • TGEoA

      Whiteys closed years ago

  • Moof

    Why don’t we just get rid of public schools? Give people vouchers for private ones. Pick the school you like. Want seatbelts? Cool. Don’t want seatbelts? Thats cool too. We can also get rid of all this arguing over whether we’re teaching evolution or creationism, condom use or not, etc. Any number of issues just go away.

    • KalashniKEV

      The public schools don’t want vouchers because then they would have to compete based on the quality of education they provide. They believe children should be smart or dumb based on their zip code, and that smart parents who want smart kids would pick a good one.

      • drax

        There’s not enough room to put all the kids in the best schools, Kev. We can’t stuff them all in. So not everyone could choose them anyway. So how’s that a solution?

        • KalashniKEV

          I’m not following… suppose I attracted top talent educators and opened up a Genius Academy where Dremo’s used to be…

          You get a voucher equal to your share of tax $ (X) plus the difference in tuition. Your kid meets the entrance standards and you enroll him. Genius Academy stomps all over Arlington Public Schools in standardized testing. Now everyone wants their kid in Genius Academy.

          SOLUTION- Higher enrollment standards/ entrance exam, Genius Academy West in Clarendon, Genius Academy Prep for youngsters…

          Is it really that hard to figure out?

          • Josh S

            Uh, but that would be a government subsidy. I thought those were no-nos?

            If your school is so great and APS is so terrible, why can’t you compete without a government subsidy?

          • drax

            Kev’s legs must be tired from all the back pedaling.

          • KalashniKEV

            If they are already going to appropriate a portion of your income and dole it out to education- shouldn’t it to go to the most worthy institution?

            I’m not saying that our Public Schools are unworthy, or that they are easy to compete with… just that without competition you don’t get a good value.

          • drax

            You can’t get a good value even with competition in your scenario, Kev, that’s the point. You have to find a way to make all the schools turn into Genius Academies to do that. But we can do that without competition, since everyone would like their kid to go to one regardless. It’s not like the rest of the schools can go out of business and Genius Academy can take over all the county’s schools.

          • Josh S

            So should we allow competing fire departments? Roads? Police departments? Sewers? How about armies? You see where I’m going here….

            But choosing a different tack – we do have competition. Private schools already exist, and in some jurisdictions charter schools. I’d advocate for charter schools before I’d advocate for vouchers. Even within the existing APS, there is competition, with the various system-wide enrollment schools (ATS, HB Woodlawn, etc)

          • drax

            Um, yeah, Kev: now everyone wants their kid in Genius Academy.

            There are 22,000 students in Arlington. How many seats are there in Genius Academy?

            So now the rest have to go to public schools anyway.

            This is basic math. Did you learn math at Genius Academy? Apparently not.

            Oh, wait, only the smart kids get in, is that it? Yeah, that’s a great solution! Smart kids get into the good schools and the rest don’t! That’s how you fix education!

          • KalashniKEV

            You are welcome to open a competing institution if you think you can keep pace with my Genius Academy… or if you’re just better than public schools. You might do well!

            AFA only the smart kids getting in- only the best athletes get invited to play on travel teams. Why should there be no standards for educational performance?

          • drax

            So now you’re the one who wants to keep only a few choice students from getting into the best schools, only you base it on how well they’ve already done rather than on zip code. Yeah, great solution there, Kev. Really solving the education problem there. Good schools should be for those who have had a good education already.

            Genius!

          • Moof

            So instead we’ll just have everyone go to a bad school? Look at it this way, there are plenty of public and private colleges. Some are better than others. We aren’t “running out” of colleges, why would we “run out” of “Genius Academies”? Still, not everyone can get into MIT, and no one thinks that is some kind of disaster. Why is that somehow different from K-12? Actually, smart kids getting into the best schools actually makes some kind of sense: these are the kids who will benefit most from a better education, and will eventually benefit society by inventing things and making our lives better. The flip side of No Children Left Behind is No Children Get Ahead. Maybe that seems good for Liberal Progressive Fairness, but it seems like a bad deal for the future of our society.

          • Josh S

            No Child Left Behind was dreamt up and implemented by a conservative administration. I doubt you’d find one person in ten that identified themselves as “liberal” who was in favor of No Child Left Behind.

            Of course, to be fair, I expect the percent of conservatives in favor of it at this point is also less than 50%. It stands as one of the top ten or fifteen worst things to be excreted by the Bush administration and as far as I know is widely reviled (except perhaps by the testing industry).

          • Moof

            There are plenty of public and private colleges. Why should K-12 be different? Not everyone gets admitted to MIT, but they still have decent options, and no one seems to think this is a disaster. Most of the people MIT rejects could never survive there anyway, but the ones who can are the top performers who can make the most of that education, and it’s in society’s interest to nurture that ability. The flip side of No Child Left Behind is that No Child Gets Ahead. Perhaps this is required for some progressive notion of “fairness” but it hardly seems to bode well for society’s future.

          • drax

            Um, really? Let’s have entrance exams for preschoolers – if they haven’t demonstrated some academic performance by then, there’s no hope for them. That’ll work out for them, and society.

            Come on.

            And this just assumes that all schools are failures because the students are. It just throws blame on another scapegoat instead of getting rid of the scapegoats (excuses).

          • KalashniKEV

            “…getting into the best schools, only you base it on how well they’ve already done rather than on zip code.”

            I hope you never manage a sports team! Or work in admissions at an educational institution… Or hire people for a company!! But yeah, I’ll stand by that statement- the greatest share/quality of resources should go to those who have earned it.

            “And this just assumes that all schools are failures because the students are.”

            Based on the number of kids failing in a given institution, I don’t know how you could dispute this. Are companies failures when their employees are? Are factories failures when their products suck?

          • Josh S

            I see where you are coming from, but I think there’s an argument in there somewhere about the right to an education. There is no right to play professional (or even high school) football. No right to work at a particular company, etc. But there is a right to education or at least not to be excluded from it. And there is definitely a societal benefit to providing the best possible education to the most people.
            Again, I don’t oppose the existence of private schools and they are free to set their admissions policies however they see fit. However, taking tax dollars earmarked for public schools and instead sending them to the private institution (vouchers) is not fair, nor do I think is it good public policy.

          • KalashniKEV

            I don’t think there is a “Right” to an education, like there is a right to free speech, a right to assemble, a right to keep and bear arms, etc. I do believe that it IS right to educate.

            I also see no foul in money that has been taxed out of the people going to the most qualified institution, public or private. You may use the example of police, but I prefer the example of a hospital.

            If you’re bleeding-out, would you rather get a free government bandaid from the clinic, or get stitched up for $3? The wealthy can already afford $3 to get stitched up and give $2 to the government clinic. If I’m already paying $2 I want that on a voucher I can take to the hospital and get the problem fixed… for $1.

      • Josh S

        Yes, you’re right. That’s what public schools believe.

        (mutters to self about insane people)

  • charlie

    when I went to high school in Arlington everyone had plenty of time to study and do well on the AP exams.

    Oh, the SOLs — why don’t we just ditch the small amount of money we get from the Feds so we can DITCH the SOLs — that would be true liberal democratic action. Everyone knows they don’t work.

    how often do kids go to school these days? It seems kids have more “inservice days” each year. no wonder school has to stay open so long.

    • Arlsouth

      Charlie – APS has more student days than almost every county in the state. Do your homework before making uniformed statements.

      • charlie

        um, my point is how many “inservice” days when the kids aren’t there.
        and if, as you argue, the kids are in school “the most days in the state” the two ADDED together make for a ridiculous long year.

  • shudder

    i don’t know but that shriveled pumpkin gives me the creeps

  • KalashniKEV

    DILLON!

  • charlie

    took the survey. not well done.
    first, it discounts those of us who have been fortunate and smart enough to NOT take jobs or buy houses that force us to use I-66
    second, it dismisses other options — like widening US 50, or making US 50 a freeway inside the beltway (Arlington has, why not Fairfax).
    clearly VDOT has a survey bias and wants certain results.
    too bad a public agency is so political.

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