Over the last seven years, Arlington Public Schools has transitioned more than a dozen elementary schools to a different style of grading, with more on the way next year.
The schools system says the goal is to get away from simplistic letter grades and to better describe student progress toward mastering standards — without encouraging unhealthy levels of competition among students.
During the transition to the new system, APS has held meetings to bring parents up to speed. But ARLnow has heard from many parents who say that despite the laudable goals, the new notation system confuses them and make it harder to know if their child needs academic support outside of school.
There may be something lost in translation, too, as parents with limited English proficiency rely on school-based bilingual specialists or Google Translate for interpretation. Some parents say they’ve given up looking at the report card and would like to return to letter grading.
“Why did this change?” said Celia Jimenez, through a Spanish interpreter. “We had a system that worked and it was easy to tell how the child was doing in school because you looked at the report card. A, good. B, good. C not doing so well, let me find out what’s going on.”
She says she has stopped looking at the report cards for her fifth-grader it’s “useless and she doesn’t understand any of it.”
For community advocate Saul Reyes, this is an equity issue impacting people who don’t have the resources to understand the report card, independently measure how their child is progressing and provide academic support outside the class.
“Arlington talks about equity. Equity is about equal outcomes for everyone,” he said. “How is this equitable?”
Before the switch, students in grades 3-5 received traditional letter grades — A,B,C, D, and E — while students in first and second grade received either a “P” for “making expected progress” or an “N” for “not making expected progress.”
“‘ABCDE’ grading drives students toward ‘A,’ and leaves no room to differentiate exceptional skill levels, and can inadvertently create conditions of comparison and judgment that are counterproductive to learning,” APS says in a website unpacking standards-based grading.
The new system, used in 17 elementary schools as of this year, is as follows:
“It’s pretty hard to understand. That is Chinese for me,” said Abel Flores, using the Spanish-language equivalent of the idiom “It’s all Greek to me.” (Flores talked to ARLnow in English but his first language is Spanish.)
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says bilingual family specialists “have been very helpful in aiding parents in understating the progress reports” while schools hold meetings early in the school year to explain this system of grading and families can reach out to their child’s teacher or school counselor for more information.
Both Jimenez and Flores said APS can’t rely on specialists because translating report cards is outside of their wheelhouse and there are too many parents needing help. Reyes says he has spoken to bilingual specialists who say they’re overwhelmed by translation requests.
“There is terminology that’s difficult to understand and difficult to interpret,” he said. Read More
Redevelopment of Parking Garage Proposed — “The owner of a pair of Crystal City hotels along Richmond Highway is moving to redevelop a parking garage on the property into residential, the latest bit of change for the neighborhood as part of an Amazon.com Inc.-inspired development boom. Miami’s Sound Hospitality is on the hunt for a development partner to manage the transformation of a garage that currently serves Crystal City’s Hampton Inn and Suites and Hilton Garden Inn.” [Washington Business Journal]
Parent Group Wants More Class Time — “An advocacy group is pressing the Arlington School Board to add more instructional time to the school system’s proposed 2022-23 calendar. The comments came at the Dec. 2 School Board meeting, in which board members were presented with a staff proposal that meets the letter of state law in providing at least 990 hours of instructional time. But the school system should be going further – holding classes the full 180 days that had been the pre-COVID standard – said Camille Galdes, who spoke on behalf of Arlington Parents for Education.” [Sun Gazette]
Firefighter Unions Call Out Alexandria — “Understaffing within the Alexandria Fire Department put people and buildings at risk during a fire at Crystal City’s restaurant row on 23rd Street earlier this month, according to two unions representing more than 500 Alexandria and Arlington firefighters, medics and fire marshals.” [ALXnow]
Middle School Student Disciplined for Weapon — “On Thursday afternoon, the Swanson Administrative team received a report that a student was in possession of a weapon on their walk home from school. As a result of our investigation and consultation with the Arlington [County] Police Department on Friday, the student was disciplined in accordance with the Arlington Public Schools code of conduct.” [Twitter]
New ACPD Officers Sworn In — “December 10, 2021 marked a significant milestone for the Arlington County Police Department’s 18 newest officers as Session 145 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy. During the graduation, the officers took their oath to serve and protect the Arlington community and safeguard the Constitutional rights of all.” [ACPD]
Abduction Arrest in Clarendon — “At approximately 3:22 a.m. on December 10, police were dispatched to the report of a check on the welfare. The reporting party advised the female victim was inside a vehicle with a known suspect who would not allow her to exit… [The suspect], 26, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Abduction and held without bond.” [ACPD]
W&OD Trail Bridge Gets Decked — “Enjoy a smooth ride on the newly-redecked bridge east of Little Falls St in Arlington.” [Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Today will be sunny with a high of 54 and a low of 38. Sunrise at 7:19 a.m. and sunset at 4:47 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high of 55 and a low of 39. [Darksky]
Slight Dip in Apartment Rents — “The average rental rate for an Arlington unit over the past month was down 0.4 percent compared to the month before, according to figures reported Nov. 1 by Apartment List. Arlington’s rental rates averaged $2,032 for one-bedroom units and $2,460 for two-bedroom units. Arlington was one of 22 of the nation’s 100 largest urban areas to see pullbacks in rental rates over the month.” [Sun Gazette]
Federal Funds for Local Bridge? — From reporter Michael Lee Pope: “@RepDonBeyer #VA08 infrastructure projects requested: $9 million for renovating the bridge connecting Mount Vernon Avenue in #AlexandriaVA to Arlington Ridge Road in #ArlingtonVA” [Twitter]
Post Reviews Lyon Park Restaurant — “When not hawking food, she is a parking enforcement officer with the Arlington County Police Department… In September, she moved indoors when she took over El Fuego Peruvian Kitchen, an Arlington business that had already made the successful transition from street vendor to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.” [Washington Post]
Wild Incident on Columbia Pike — “At approximately 9:30 a.m. on November 6, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred and fire department units were also responding to investigate the smell of smoke and natural gas. Upon arrival inside the residential building, the suspect approached responding officers and began shouting. As the officers attempted to place the suspect into custody, he actively resisted and a brief struggle ensued before he was detained without further incident. The investigation determined that the suspect was allegedly acting irate and damaged the doors to multiple residential units.” [ACPD]
Parents Group Calls Out APS Calendar — “In prior years, APS aligned its calendar with neighboring (and vast) FCPS – an effort to support staff who worked and lived in different jurisdictions. This year’s calendar has a different start date and Spring Break than FCPS, and APS is off for five holidays when FCPS is not, which makes the schedule almost impossible for staff and working families to navigate.” [Arlington Parents for Education]
Rare Opening of Tomb Plaza — Updated at 9 a.m. — “Arlington National Cemetery will open up the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza Tuesday and Wednesday to members of the public and allow visitors to lay flowers for the first time in almost 100 years. The privilege is typically reserved for members of ‘The Old Guard,’ sentinels in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment who stand watch constantly at the Arlington National Cemetery landmark, officials say.” [NBC 4]
It’s Tuesday — Today will be near perfect, with sunny skies and a high of 72. Sunrise at 6:44 a.m. and sunset at 4:59 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 67. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
A local youth hockey association says it is being forced to cancel games over a referee shortage caused in large part by abusive parents and coaches.
The Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association, which covers Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, reports that it has lost 50% of its game officials from pre-coronavirus season numbers to this season. In 2018-19, it had just shy of 500 officials, and as of October, there were 276, says association president Linda Jondo.
Officials are leaving, league participants are being told, amid an uptick in abusive behavior.
“In the PVAHA, we’ve racked up more than a dozen reports of players, parents and coaches thrown out of rinks for their unprofessional conduct towards officials in the first two weeks of the season,” Jondo said in a letter to parents, coaches and players, provided to ARLnow. “This is beyond unacceptable and a direct assault on our ability to retain enough qualified/experienced officials for our leagues.”
The abuse includes parents and coaches who accuse referees of making terrible decisions and missing calls and — in at least a few cases — chase them into parking lots to berate them.
But the pandemic is also partly to blame, as some senior referees realized that having their weekend free of obligations was actually pretty nice, while others opposed mask mandates. Without the more experienced refs, the verbal abuse turns to younger referees, who often quit after a few games.
The ref shortage is widespread.
Some weekends, 40-50 games are postponed, rescheduled or canceled due to the shortage, Jondo said. This phenomenon is happening nationwide and is playing out in football, soccer, wrestling and lacrosse, too.
In hockey, Jondo and her fellow youth league presidents noticed an uptick in unruly behavior after parents returned to the stands. When games were restricted to players and coaches, she says there was some harassment from coaches, but the atmosphere was more relaxed.
“When you’re at a 10-and-under game and you challenge an official to ‘make me leave the building’ because you’ve done nothing but harass and official for two periods… This was a seasoned official. He does college level games. And you’re challenging him and a 10-under game,” she said. “That’s how ridiculous it’s gotten — we just don’t know why.”
(The unruly behavior may ring a bell outside the sports world: as widely reported, violent outbursts and abuse of flight attendants by passengers have increased on commercial flights in the U.S.)
The group of youth hockey presidents drafted most of the wording of the letter sent by the PVAHA, based on their collective observations. Before distributing it from Massachusetts to D.C., they tailored the specifics to each league’s referee situation.
“We’re all sending the same message up and down the East Coast,” Jondo said.
And it’s still a problem, says Jondo, who spent about six hours today (Monday) going through 60 game reports, including some reports of harassment and abuse, and received two videos Sunday showing extreme behavior.
“The letter, while it’s worked, some people are not getting the message,” she said.
PVAHA started suspending out-of-control parents and coaches about five years ago, she said. And while it’s not unusual for parents or coaches to be frustrated, the behavior now is beyond the pale.
“Since we’ve come back from COVID-19 and the senior officials aren’t coming back, it’s easier to berate a teenager,” she said. “National Hockey League officials aren’t perfect, but they don’t get followed to their cars and aren’t berated.”
The referee shortage and decline in sports civility is not a new phenomenon, according to the Christian Science Monitor, which used the Potomac youth hockey association’s letter to segue into a report on these trends and possible creative solutions.
If parents ignore the letter, PVAHA may have to mull different disciplinary measures. It isn’t clear what that could look like.
“We just have to see where this goes,” Jondo said.
Photo via John Sonderman/Flickr
Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) will soon start hosting free, monthly social events for Arlington families in The Plaza at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd).
The local online moms group announced the new event series earlier this week. This month’s event will take place on Saturday, September 14 and will feature donuts from District Donuts and entertainment by children’s magician The Great Zucchini.
“Bring along your family and friends and enjoy a morning of mixing and mingling, while the kids are entertained,” says an event page.
The socials will take place every second Saturday of each month from 11-12 a.m. During cold or rainy weather, the event will be held inside on the second floor of the mall.
The event will be open to the public and families with young children are especially encouraged to attend, according a news release.
“With our monthly socials, we hope to enable families to get together, build connections and create long lasting friendships, while the kids are entertained,” said MONA president Mrinal Oberoi.
MONA is a non-profit support and social group for mothers in six Arlington ZIP codes (22201, 22203, 22205, 2207, 22209 or 22213), with over 2,200 members, according to the group’s website. Membership costs $30 per year, with a $20 initial registration fee.
Anyone from the area, no matter the zip code, can attend the monthly Ballston Quarter socials for free, the group said.
Virginia Hospital Center executives celebrated when they finally earned permission to expand the hospital’s North Arlington campus and execute a long-planned land swap with the county — but one of the consequences of the deal has some employees and parents feeling blindsided.
VHC is gearing up to send Arlington its property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road in Glencarlyn, in exchange for gaining control over a piece of land at 1800 N. Edison Street. The latter property is adjacent to its existing facilities along N. George Mason Drive, and will be a key part of the hospital’s hotly debated expansion plans.
Of course, that’s going to prompt some big changes at the Carlin Springs Road site as the county takes over. Among them is the impending closure of a childcare center that the hospital operated on the property in tandem with Bright Horizons, serving VHC employees and local parents alike.
The daycare facility is now set to close on July 26, according to letters from both VHC and Bright Horizons provided to ARLnow. Though that deadline may be a full four months away, parents with kids at the daycare say they’re now scrambling to find alternative options.
The county is currently facing a childcare crunch, with local leaders currently weighing strategies to bring down the cost of daycare options in Arlington, and VHC parents say those conditions have only exacerbated the shock they felt about the childcare center’s closing.
“I was feeling reassured that finally Arlington realized that there’s more demand than supply when it comes to childcare, and now this happens,” said one parent, who declined to be identified. “It’s ironic that in Arlington, where there’s supposed to be some attention to how challenging it is to find childcare centers, instead of opening a new place we’re closing one of the big ones down and forcing families and employees to figure things out on their own.”
A spokesperson for the hospital would only confirm that the center is closing sometime this year, saying that “the details of the closing are still being worked out,” but otherwise would not comment on the situation.
Mike Malone, VHC’s vice president for administrative services and chief human resources officer, wrote in a letter to parents that it was his “great disappointment” to have to close the center. He said “the county will be repurposing the land on the Carlin Springs campus and demolishing the building,” prompting the closure — VHC leaders previously told ARLnow that the land swap would be finalized by May or June at the latest.
Malone added that Bright Horizons is “committed to helping every current family find care in another Bright Horizons center or [helping] you transition into another center of your choosing.”
In a letter of their own, Bright Horizons executives pointed to the “over two dozen centers spread across the metro area” that the company operates as options for parents. They also noted that they have “resources available to facilitate your child’s transition,” and said they plan to help staff at the center find jobs at other Bright Horizons locations.
Parents at the center told ARLnow that help is appreciated, but they fear it isn’t enough to manage the transition.
APS on Two Hour Delay — Arlington Public Schools are opening today on a two hour delay. “The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled,” APS said. [Twitter]
Chain Bridge Closes Due to Ice — Chain Bridge was closed for much of the morning rush hour this morning due to icy conditions on the bridge. Multiple crashes were reported, though the bridge has since reopened. [Twitter, Twitter]
Amazon News Roundup — Per the Washington Business Journal: The neighborhoods around the Rosslyn area might have been rebranded as “Capital View” had it been chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The retro Americana hotel in Crystal City is hoping to stay put and revamp a bit as Amazon moves in. The Crystal City BID is working to expand its boundaries and, if successful, may be renamed the National Landing BID. Finally, while Virginia is mostly welcoming Amazon with open arms, in the other half of the HQ2 equation, New York City, Amazon is facing protests and opposition from local lawmakers.
Amazonians May Invade Dating Scene — DCist asks: “Will Amazon Bring A Bunch Of Rude Workaholics To The D.C. Dating Scene?” [DCist]
Money Diary of a Local Parent — As part of a money diary feature, Slate asks: “How Much Does a Dad of Two Spend on His Kids During One Week in Arlington, Virginia?” [Slate]
E-CARE This Weekend — The Arlington Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE), “a biannual event at which residents can safely dispose of household hazardous materials (HHM), bikes, small metal items and other recyclable items,” is set to happen this weekend at 1425 N. Quincy Street. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17 from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Jenn Vogel
The Arlington Soccer Association is asking parents to pipe down this weekend, scheduling a day of “silent soccer” for its recreational league.
Managers of the 6,000-member league are encouraging parents and other spectators to refrain from cheering and offer their support silently on Saturday (May 12) for teams with players ranging from second grade through high school.
Dan Ferguson, ASA’s recreational soccer director, says fans of kids in kindergarten and first grade will still be able to cheer as loud as they’d like this weekend. But, for the rest of the league’s teams, he’s hoping to give players a bit of a break from the constant feedback they receive from the sidelines.
“It’s a reminder to adults that kids don’t need constant instruction to be able to play the game,” Ferguson told ARLnow. “Sometimes parents feel like their kids are lost when we do this, but we try to tell them: ‘That’s okay.’ We’re not really here for the wins and losses.”
Ferguson says ASA has been holding “silent soccer” days on Mother’s Day weekend for at least the last six or seven years, and he’s consistently gotten positive feedback from coaches and parents about the event. In fact, he says some coaches continue to ask spectators to keep quiet even after the weekend is over.
“The overwhelming reaction is the kids seem to enjoy it,” Ferguson said. “They can actually hear each other talk on the field, communicating with their teammates and giving them instructions.”
Ferguson added that ASA is currently only planning a day of silent soccer for its rec league, not its travel teams.
Just last weekend, DC Stoddert Soccer, one of the region’s largest youth sports associations, enforced silent soccer rules for the first time in its history.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arvaye Robinson, the mother of two elementary school girls she had hoped to enroll in the Arlington Public Schools extended day program, stood in front of the Syphax Education Center this morning during the system’s technical problems that ultimately suspended sign-up indefinitely.
“I’m so disappointed,” Robinson said, exasperated, with her phone in her hand waiting to hear from a school staffer. “I wanted some confirmation.”
After setting an alarm for exactly 7:59 a.m. so she could hop online and enroll her children, Robinson realized that the site was down and that she would have to drive to the center to enroll her children in person. She was told that she would receive a call about placement, but she didn’t feel confident about that.
“They have the means to take payment, but no concrete confirmation,” said Robinson.
A father who overheard ARLnow interviewing Robinson cut into the conversation, calling the situation absurd and saying that it had thrown his work schedule out the window for the second year in a row.
Indeed, this is the second consecutive year that extended day registration has flopped. There are varying reports of exactly how many parents waited in line to secure a spot for their children, but one parent told ARLnow she saw at least 100 people in the Syphax Education Center’s lobby this morning.
The extended day program allows parents “who can’t juggle everything” to leave children in their school’s care before and after classes, according to the program’ director, Bobby Kaplow.
According to Kaplow, after last year’s technical failure with the same vendor, APS spent the year troubleshooting with the contractor, trying to find a solution.
“All year we worked with him, we told him what we needed, we told him what the problem was, can he see it on his end,” Kaplow said, adding that he had demanded that the contractor fly in from Michigan to be on-site for the enrollment rollout today in case any issues cropped up.
“I talked to him 20 minutes before it started today, and said, ‘Are we good?'” Kaplow said. The contractor told the director that there wouldn’t be any problems.
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, March 13
Trivia Night: Are you smarter than a Catholic sister?*
Ireland’s Four Courts (2051 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:30-9 p.m.
Test your pop culture and general knowledge against a team of Catholic Sisters, with drink specials and free appetizers. Prizes for top trivia teams.
Wednesday, March 14
Shaping Arlington for a Smart & Secure Future*
County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Listen to a panel discussion on how technology will shape Arlington, featuring government and cybersecurity experts. A reception with light refreshments will also be held.
Arlington Committee of 100 Virginia Hospital Center Expansion*
Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7-9 p.m.
The Committee of 100 is hosting a panel discussion on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion, the county’s population growth and evolving community healthcare needs. Optional dinner served.
Thursday, March 15
Parenting Lecture: Parenting an Anxious Child
The Sycamore School (4600 N. Fairfax Drive)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
Dr. Christine Golden will discuss the challenges of parenting a child with anxiety and offer some helpful strategies for managing behaviors. The lecture is free to attend.
Friday, March 16
St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.
The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.
Saturday, March 17
Whitlow’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 9 a.m. – Close
Live Irish music and an open rooftop welcome you at Whitlow’s On Wilson’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Special Irish menu and March Madness games on the TVs all day.
WJAFC Open Day*
Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street)
Time: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
A co-ed, free clinic to learn the Australian football game. Kids from 5-15 will learn starting at 9 a.m., with an adults clinic and co-ed non-contact game at 10:30 a.m.
Guinness and Gold*
Ten at Clarendon (3110 10th Street N.)
Time: 12-5 p.m.
Tour the Clarendon apartment building with a free Guinness and cash in on leasing deals. Leasing specials are subject to terms and conditions.
Osteria da Nino (2900 S. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Join Tre Monti winery over a four course meal with five wines, including theThea Passito 2012 Romagna Albana DOCG raisin wine. Tickets are $75 per person.
Yorktown High School Presents “Almost, Maine”*
Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Boulevard)
Time: 7-9:30 p.m.
Students will be performing John Cariani’s “Almost Maine,” about a remote, mythical town and the effect of the northern lights on the lovestruck residents. Tickets are $10.
Sunday, March 18
St. Joseph’s Table Celebration
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 1-4 p.m.
Join the church following the noon mass for a procession to celebrate this feast day with a potluck lunch, live music, and a kids woodworking shop.
*Denotes featured (sponsored) event
When Jessica Winesett became a mom 16 months ago, she quickly learned how hard it was for moms to have “the night off.” The experience led the Alexandria resident to organize Northern Virginia’s first-ever “Mom Prom.”
Set for Saturday, March 24 from 7-11 p.m., the ladies-only event at Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd) will raise funds for the Greater DC Diaper Bank and Second Story for Young Mothers.
Winesett said she was inspired to launch the event after hearing about mom proms in Richmond, now in its seventh year, and Hampton Roads, now in its third year.
“Since becoming a mom, I have such passion for moms now. When we take care of our moms, we take care of our society,” she said, “In my eyes, the initiative has already been a success because I see the community coming together and giving together. This is a feel-good event where women who are and aren’t mothers are welcome for a fun night out.”
Only women 21 years and above are allowed because alcohol will be served at the event. Tickets are available online. The offer for $45 early bird tickets ends on Saturday. Prices increase to $50 afterward.
The first 100 women to arrive will receive a door prize and awards for the “most glamorous” and “most outrageous” outfit will be given. A prom queen or mom of the year will be crowned from submitted nominations.
An after-party open to the public is scheduled after the prom ends at 11 p.m.
Flyer via ProMOmenade