Oakridge and Ashlawn elementary schools have adopted a reading-only homework policy this year, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. Another local school, Taylor Elementary, is currently piloting a similar program for second graders.
Under the new program, teachers will only assign occasional at-home reading. Students are graded not on homework, but on class participation and what they produce during the school day.
The policy is aimed at teaching students how to think critically and solve problems, said Oakridge principal Dr. Lynne Wright.
“We felt that when we used homework as a grade, it was inequitable because we couldn’t really determine how much of the assignment was done by the student or how much was done with editing, support and coaching,” Wright said.
But that doesn’t mean kids at those schools won’t learn how to be responsible after class, Wright said. Teachers will encourage students to learn practical tasks such as making their lunch for the next day or putting things away at home.
So far, Wright said there’s been little resistance from parents, partly because the new program didn’t come as a surprise. School officials spent the last year looking at research and talking it over at PTA meetings.
“The questions about responsibility and getting ready for middle school were the questions that came up the most,” Wright said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of pushback.”
In fact, many parents said they felt like homework took too much time away from interacting with their kids.
“They weren’t spending time talking to their children about their day or their friendships or the content they’d learned,” Wright said. “They were really just saying, get that worksheet done. They felt like they were putting all this energy into something that wasn’t impacting their learning or their creativity and problem solving.”
And how are students taking to the new policy?
“They were jumping for joy,” Wright said. “They feel relief. They’re happy. They’re proud. They feel like they’re developing their relationships.”
Last year, Oakridge Elementary parents used donations and sponsorships to buy pedal desks, standup desks and yoga ball chairs to help fidgety kids learn while staying active.
Now, parents are back trying to raise money to expand the program, which received both local and some national attention.
On Tuesdays this month, starting tomorrow, the Oakridge PTA is hosting four evening fitness programs for adults, featuring local fitness and wellness businesses like SpecOps Fitness and Mind Your Body Oasis.
“These adult May fitness classes are one of two fundraising efforts we are currently doing to raise additional funds for the kinesthetic equipment,” explained Dana Dougherty, a mother of three and substitute teacher. “All donations will go toward our mission, all classes are sponsored by the individuals teaching.”
“We have had incredibly positive feedback from parents, students and teachers — they want more!” she told ARLnow.com. “Depending on the funds raised, we will look at adding pieces the teachers would like to add. You can see tons of different options at www.kidsfit.com… there are several great options under kinesthetic classroom desks.”
Money for the initiative will also be raised at the PTA’s Spring Fling on May 22, where teachers and administrators will be dunked for the cause.
“We will have a dunk tank with favorite teachers, principal and perhaps even a school board member participating,” said Dougherty.
Ballston Restaurant Makes Habit of Breaking Plates — Order the suckling pig at SER restaurant (1110 N. Glebe Road) in Ballston and the chef will chop it at the table with the blunt edge of a plate. After the chopping is done, the chef will smash the plate, as part of a Spanish tradition. [Washington Post]
Dem Dinner May Be Renamed — The Arlington County Democratic Committee is considering renaming its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, given that the event is currently named after two slaveholding presidents. [InsideNova]
Oakridge Pedal Desks Get National Attention — The pedal desks at Oakridge Elementary are getting some attention from a national cycling magazine, which write that the desk is “is a novel idea because it allows a child to fidget without creating a distraction.” [Bicycling]
School Bus Cameras to Start Issuing Tickets — Stop sign cameras on Arlington school buses will start issuing $250 tickets on Tuesday, the first day of school. The cameras were installed earlier this year and started issuing warnings this summer to those who drive past school buses while the stop sign is deployed. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Oakridge Elementary is getting desks with bicycle pedals and swinging bars in an effort to incorporate movement and exercise into classroom learnings.
The new desks, as well as yoga ball chairs, are part of a pilot program to improve kids’ ability to learn while in school.
The idea behind the new equipment is based in science, said Heather Suave, a member of Oakridge’s 2Fit2Quit Committee and Wellness Council. Research has shown that when kids’ brains are active, which happens during exercise, they are able to retain more information.
“Kids in elementary school have the wiggles, and it’s a good energy release,” Suave said.
Oakridge Elementary was able to raise $9,000 through sponsorships and donations — from Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, the Oakridge PTA and individual donations — to buy three of the two person pedal desks, four stand-up/swinging desks and eight yoga ball chairs.
The pilot program has only been in place for a month, Suave said, but it is already showing promise.
Jenn Crain, a third and fourth grade teacher, said the new equipment has helped with keeping her students focused and have not been a distraction in the classroom. She has had the pedal desk and standing desks in her class.
“Some of them prefer the pedal desk, some of them prefer the standing desk, some of them prefer none,” she said.
The kids have also had positive feedback toward the equipment, she said during a presentation.
Maxwell Thomas, an 8-year-old student, likes the pedal desk because they help him concentrate while he does his math schoolwork.
“I can get my body moving while I work,” Maxwell said.
Annabella Brooks, a fifth-grade student, likes the standing/swing-desk “because people have a way to fidget without making noise.”
The desk helps her concentrate and she finds it relaxing, Annabella said.
“It’s easier to think while moving,” she said.
This is the first pilot program in Virginia. The equipment is also used in 30 schools in Texas and in 32 other states, said Lowell Lease, a representative with KidsFit, the company that provides the equipment.
The company has received good feedback on the equipment from other schools as well, Lease said.
“The kids love it,” he said. “The teachers love it because the kids pay attention better.”
Oakridge Principal Lynne Wright will be honored with APS’ top award for administrators, 11 years after she won the 2004 Teacher of the Year Award while she was at Taylor Elementary School. Wright managed to improve Oakridge’s Standards of Learning test scores while at the helm of Arlington’s most overcrowded elementary school.
“Lynne is an energetic and charismatic leader who creates a positively charged school where students thrive and families are welcomed,” APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a press release. “She recognizes the importance of building relationships with families and community that supports the diverse student population. Lynne is an exceptional educator and dedicated instructional leader who creates connections among staff, families and the community, all leading to the success of students.”
In the 2013-2014 school year, Oakridge raised its SOL pass rate in math from 76 to 85 percent and in reading form 74 to 81 percent. She accomplished this, in part, by integrating technology, data and stronger assessments into her school’s instruction.
Wright was named Oakridge’s assistant principal in 2007 and was promoted to principal in 2010.
“She is firm and demanding, yet friendly and approachable,” counselor Anne Terwilliger said in the release. “She encourages staff to hold each other to high expectations by modeling how to do so in a comfortable and respectful manner.”
Arlington’s 2015 Teacher of the Year is Dahlia Constantine, who serves as an instructional lead teacher and student teacher host, as well as leading her third-grade class.
“Dahlia is an outstanding educator who builds strong relationships with her students and families,” Murphy said in a release. “She has a special talent to inspire children to become lifelong learners and continually seeks ways to involve families in the instructional process to create a comprehensive learning network.”
Constantine came to Arlington, and Patrick Henry, in 2011 after stints teaching in New York City, La Puente and Monterey Park, Calif., and Woodbridge, Va. Her principal, Annie Frye, lauded her use of data to inform her work in the classroom.
“Dahlia’s style, technique and passion for the educational profession are immediately evident when you walk into her room, when you meet her or, better yet, when you see her in action with her class,” Patrick Henry parent Colleen Godbout said. “The children are at such ease in the environment she creates. She respects her students and they can sense it.”
Constantine and Wright will be honored, as well as winning teachers from the other 34 schools in Arlington, at an awards reception at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at Washington-Lee High School. The winners from each other APS school can be seen after the jump.
The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. at S. Arlington Ridge Road and S. Lang Street. According to police, a young adult male was walking on the sidewalk when a black male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt approached him and demanded money.
The victim was shot once in the leg and the suspect fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.
Police established a perimeter and brought in K-9 units and the Fairfax County Police helicopter to search for the suspect, but were unable to locate him. Both Gunston Middle School and nearby Oakridge Elementary School were hosting evening activities at the time and were locked down for a period after the incident.
The victim was transported to George Washington University hospital with what is described as a non-life-threatening injury, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Some roads in the area are still blocked off as police continue to investigate the crime.
The last reported non-fatal shooting in Arlington County occurred on May 29, 2012, outside of a hotel in Crystal City. A man suffered two non-life-threatening gunshot wounds during that incident. The murder of
Today was “Walk and Bike to School Day” in Arlington and across the country.
The annual event in Arlington, organized by Arlington Public Schools (with the help of local PTAs), encourages students and parents to bike and walk to school more often. At Oakridge Elementary School, this year’s “spotlight school” for Walk and Bike to School Day, hundreds of students and parents walked, biked or even scootered to school.
Arlington County Police kept a close eye on the roads around the school in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood. Busy Arlington Ridge Road was temporarily shut down to allow a large convoy of kids and adults on bikes to make their way to the school, safely, from a “rest stop” at the historic Hume School (1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road).
After students arrived they gathered behind the school for a rally, featuring words of encouragement from Oakridge principal Dr. Lynne Wright, County Board member Walter Tejada, and ultramarathon runner (and Arlington resident) Michael Wardian. Wardian, along with some local triathletes and competitive cyclists, led students in a series of light physical activities.
APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said Walk and Bike to School Day is a fun event that sends an important message about staying physically fit.
“I think the message is [encouraging] a well-balanced lifestyle,” he said. “We want to emphasize many of the things that the community values here. Biking and walking is part of the community, part of our value system, and I also think it’s something we want to encourage kids to do.”
Some parents weren’t fully sold on the message, though. One parent, armed with petition forms, wore signs protesting changes to the school system’s busing policies. Nearby, a minivan also had words of protest scrawled on its back window. The changes have meant that some students now have to either walk, bike or be driven to school since they’re no longer eligible to ride a school bus.