By Karyn Ewart, PhD.
Stressed out, overwhelmed, anxious. Sound familiar?
I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your kids!
As families prepare to take a much needed spring break next week, now is a good time to talk about why our kids are more burnt out than some corporate executives, and how parents can help their kids chill out on spring break, and even when they return to school.
Middle and high school students are under pressure:
- Social pressure is high and social acceptance can now be measured by social media stats. Worse yet, kids never get a break from the social pressure, even after their school day is over. The Sycamore School is addressing social issues by giving students a place to talk about socialization as well as adolescent development and explicitly teaching students skills to increase self-awareness, self-regulation and effective communication skills.
- Extracurricular pressure is mounting. Particularly in our highly competitive region, our kids are pushed to do more, do better and distinguish themselves. Kids are expected to not only be on teams, in clubs, service organizations, or enrichment, but if they want to get into a good college, they need to demonstrate leadership now.
- Academic pressure is intense. Northern Virginia and the greater D.C. region are home to amazing schools — but with them comes expectations of high performance. From a very young age, our kids are grouped, labeled and tracked; if our students aren’t on the accelerated learning track, we feel they are falling behind. Our middle schoolers are pushed to start preparing for college starting in sixth grade; by eighth grade our kids are getting high school credit; by 10th grade they are earning college credits. For many kids, earning average grades triggers tutoring or supplemental instruction (god forbid a C!) while with others, they fall through the cracks, get lost in large classes and are unable to get the help they need to reach their potential. As a community, we don’t accept average, and that creates incredible stress for our children. The Sycamore School’s small classes coupled with experiential learning and student choice of assignments and assessments will support students at all levels of their academic journey, and allow students to recognize how they learn best. By providing a supportive environment, students can advance at their own pace, without the pressure of a standardized system.
Our culture of more-better-faster has created an academic environment that is unhealthy for children’s development; kids are not able to be kids. The impact of stress on adolescents can be seen in the rise of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use and abuse.
So what is the alternative? Parents have choices, but first they have to own that it is a choice to perpetuate the culture of pressure that is suffocating our kids.
- Let kids make their own choices — it’s ok if they don’t want to take 4 AP classes, or to take accelerated English, or join the science team. Let your kids develop their own interests: that is what will spark a love of learning.
- Lay off the “if you don’t do this now you’ll be shutting doors for later” language. That is your own anxiety talking and it’s not fair to put that pressure on your kids.
- Explore alternative education options. I founded The Sycamore School for the purpose of flipping education priorities upside down to let kids be kids, and develop learners who are problem solvers, independent thinkers and team players.
- Say “no” to our culture of acceleration. If you let your kid be the age they are and the developmental level they are, they will experience NOW instead of living for a maybe-one-day future.
- Be present for your kids. Slow down your own frenetic drive and take time to listen, observe and enjoy the moments you have with your children now.
- Play for the sake of playing. It’s OK if the game is silly and doesn’t reinforce a skill or developmental milestone. Laugh.
You can learn more about how The Sycamore School is turning education upside down in Arlington by attending an interactive open house, or subscribe to our newsletter for more insights into education and adolescent development.
Karyn Ewart, PhD. is Founder and Head of School at The Sycamore School in Arlington and is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in public and private schools for over 15 years. Dr. Ewart has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She has extensive experience working with adolescents in schools, including students with learning differences. She believes that engaging students to be active members of a community, within a school setting, serves as a catalyst for developing positive relationships, facilitating growth and effecting change.
The preceding was sponsored by The Sycamore School.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s organization or of ARLnow.com.
Throughout the 1990s, Democratic General Assembly candidates ran on a platform of making state funds available to lessen the heavy financial burden of localities facing growing demand for classroom space.
Unfortunately for Arlington, the General Assembly remained under Republican control and state funding for school construction has been kept off the table. Virginia’s Department of Education website reflects this short-sighted policy: “Counties and cities in Virginia are independent political entities of the state (so are school boards that own and maintain their facilities). Therefore public school construction projects are financed through local funds.”
State funding for local school construction makes sense given the significant state educational mandates. But General Assembly Republicans have refused to supplement local classroom construction funding.
As we see now, it is difficult for localities to cut spending, raise taxes, promote economic development, or create debt capacity quickly enough to meet high growth in student population. Availability of the state’s significantly greater resources in times of unusually rapid student population growth would promote high-quality education.
What did the Republican legislators do instead of providing school construction funds?
They mandated pushing on the state’s children — of diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs — state-sponsored religion in taxpayer-funded, government-run public schools.
I discovered this when I went to my kids’ elementary school in Arlington and noticed a large prominent sign next to the front door with “In God We Trust” superimposed on an American flag. It felt like a throwback to Cold War efforts to set ourselves apart from the communist Soviet Union.
After some inquiries, I learned that the General Assembly mandated that all public schools in Arlington, and across Virginia, put up that sign. (The words are based on the advice in Proverbs 3:5 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”)
Some may think this isn’t a big issue. Kids may not pay much attention to symbols and tend to adapt to just about anything. But imagine for a moment being a 10 year-old raised Unitarian or Buddhist, or having atheist or agnostic parents, and you see that powerful, patriotic symbol every day when you come to school just before you recite the Pledge of Allegiance. How welcome would that sign make you feel?
We know what most kids want more than anything – to fit in. We want our professional learning communities to be welcoming places where ALL children can maximize their talents and become productive members of society.
Looking for a small, affordable, private, Christian day school with a small town community feel? Can you appreciate a school that begins each day with the students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee?
Then please come visit the open house at Our Savior Lutheran School, which will be held Saturday, January 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Come see a hidden gem of a school which has been in the heart of Arlington providing education and service since 1952. The school is conveniently located close to the Pentagon and Route 50 in Arlington.
Grades Pre-K (age 4 by September 30) through 8th grade are offered with very small class sizes (only 20 students per class). The elementary school grades have self-contained classrooms, while the middle school is departmentalized. The school also has one of the lowest tuition rates in Northern Virginia. The dedicated, caring teachers work hand-in-hand with an active community of families which make this school thrive.
Students are encouraged to start a life of service through various opportunities:
- Weekly chapel offerings are designed to various groups in need for our neighbors in Arlington and around the world
- Walk for the Homeless and preparing bag meals for A-SPAN
- Letters to pen pans (elderly members of the church congregation)
- Stop Hunger Now — the entire school helped prepare dry meals to send overseas
- Pairing middle schoolers and kindergarteners as chapel buddies
- Sixth graders begin and start the day by raising the American flag and assisting with the Kiss-N-Ride line
Our Savior also offers many extracurricular activities including a music and a choral program, After School clubs that include foreign language (Spanish and French), a Baking Club and a Geometry Club.
If you are interested in what Our Savior has to offer and why this school shines, please come by the Open House on January the 24th or call to schedule a tour any other day. The school is located at 825 S. Taylor St., Arlington, VA 22204 Phone: (703) 892-4846, osva.org.
Patrick Henry Elementary Honored by State — Patrick Henry Elementary School was among 40 schools around the state honored by the Virginia Board of Education for improving the academic performance of economically disadvantaged students. It was named a Highly Distinguished School for exceeding both state and federal benchmarks two years in a row. [WJLA]
Arlington, Falls Church Have State’s Best Jobs Numbers — Arlington and Falls Church tied for the lowest jobless rate in Virginia last month. They both listed a 3.7 percent unemployment rate for September. Arlington’s unemployment rate had been at 4 percent in August. [InsideNova]
Dog Loose at Airport — Among the cases recently handled by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington was a dog loose on the property at Reagan National Airport. The pooch had been reported missing and was reunited with its owner. [Washington Post]
Bike Light and Arm Band Giveaway — All cyclists, runners and walkers who stop by the Crystal City exit of the Mount Vernon Trail tonight from 4:00-6:00 p.m. will receive a free bike light or LED arm/leg band, courtesy of the Crystal City BID. Limit one item per person, while supplies last.
Flickr pool photo by lifeinthedistrict
Elementary school students got moving and learned about pedestrian safety on the first day of school in Arlington Tuesday morning.
With a police escort, families walked from Fort Barnard Park to Drew Model Elementary School in Nauck as part of a joint pedestrian and cyclist safety initiative by Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County Police Department.
The new program encourages families to create healthy habits and discuss how to stay safe, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said.
“The message is safety for students both coming from and going to school,” Murphy said before families strolled in the post-Labor Day heat.
Keeping kids safe on streets using “the 3 ‘E’s” of engineering, education and traffic law enforcement are a top priority of the county, added Larry Marcus, Arlington’s transportation, engineering and operations bureau chief.
As she walked her 3-year-old son Kanoa to his first day of Montessori school, lifelong Nauck resident Jaque Tuck, 30, said she wanted to teach her child healthy habits.
“On his very first day, we wanted to let him know everything is okay and to give him some exercise,” the child protective services employee said alongside her husband, real estate agent Karl Tuck.
Julia Stewart, a substitute teacher at the school, said she opted to walk her 11-year-old son Braden and 7-year-old son Tristan to class as a way to build community.
“I wanted to meet people who live in the neighborhood and go to school with us,” Stewart said. “You make it kind of a walking bus.”
Arlington families were notified about a month ago if they lived in a “bus zone” or a “walk zone” — and were encouraged to walk if possible, a department spokeswoman said.
Principal Darryl Evans encouraged Drew Elementary parents to walk their kids to school and supplement the two crossing guards who have posts near the school.
“We have a lot of children who walk in our community. It’s important that the adults help us out,” he said about school with 671 students enrolled this fall.
In a related pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign, some ACPD patrol cars now have rear stickers — with the words “PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful)” — that remind drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to share the road.
The release of the decals coincides with enforcement of the state law enacted July 1 requiring that drivers pass “at a reasonable speed” at least three feet from a cyclist they pass, according to a statement issued by the county.
ACPD stepped up high-visibility safety patrols around schools today for the beginning of the school year.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column 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.
Last week, Arlington Public Schools’ Superintendent Patrick Murphy released his proposed budget. The total price tag is $539.4 million. Murphy reported per pupil spending would climb to $19,244. Those numbers were reinforced in a presentation by Arlington School Board members at this week’s Civic Federation meeting.
By way of comparison, tuition and fees this year at Marymount University are $26,430. Full-time tuition and fees for Spring 2014 at George Mason University are $5,129 for a new, in-state student — just over $10,000 total for a school year.
The APS budget proposes to make an iPad or tablet available to every second grader as well as a Chromebook for every sixth grader. It looks at the future possibility of providing foreign language instruction at every elementary school. And, it reflects higher health-care costs.
It is likely there are many line items in the budget that will come under intense scrutiny over the coming weeks and months before it is finalized in May. The purpose of this column is not to question specific line items within the school budget, but to question whether the presentation of the budget should under-report the actual total per pupil cost in our school budget?
The projected enrollment for the next school year is 24,153. If you divide $539.4 million by the projected enrollment, the per pupil cost is $22,333 — not $19,244.
It goes without saying that $3,089 per student is not a small difference. It adds up to more than $74 million that would not be accounted for in the total budget when you multiply the difference by the enrollment.
There is almost certainly an accounting rationale for Superintendent Murphy’s use of a per pupil spending figure that is $3,089 less than it actually is. However, if you are going to claim you are giving the taxpayers a per pupil cost, it should actually reflect the total cost per pupil to provide education to Arlington students.
The questions remains then, why does the APS budget report per pupil costs this way? It is a question our School Superintendent and School Board should answer.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Arlington Public Schools announced a plan to make up the days lost so far during the 2013-2014 school year.
Although technically there were three days off due to inclement weather — December 9 and 10 and January 3 — only January 3 needs to be made up. December 9 and 10 do not have to be made up because additional instructional hours were already built into the calendar.
The altered schedule only applies to elementary schools with Early Release, which includes Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Long Branch, Nottingham, Oakridge, Taylor and Tuckahoe. Because additional instructional hours had already been built in for middle schools, high schools and elementary schools with Limited Early Release, those schools do not have to make up the time. Limited Early Release elementary schools include Abingdon, Ashlawn, Barcroft, Barrett, Campbell, Carlin Springs, Claremont, Drew, Glebe, Henry, Hoffman-Boston, Jamestown, Key, McKinley and Randolph.
The following early release days will become full attendance days as part of the make-up:
Elementary Schools With Early Release
- Wednesday, February 19
- Wednesday, April 9
- Wednesday, April 30
The Stratford Program
- Tuesday, February 18
- Tuesday, April 8
- Tuesday, April 29
APS will adjust its schedule as necessary should any more days be lost this year.
Arlington Photos Highlighted as Example of Why Microsoft CEO is Retiring — Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, announced in August that he will be stepping down within a year and two photos taken at the Pentagon City mall are being touted as an example of why. The first photo shows an empty Microsoft Store at the mall this past Sunday (December 8) during prime holiday shopping season. The next photo shows a packed Apple Store at the same mall. [Slate]
Parents Claim Incompatible Programs at Drew Model School — Parents who have students at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.) told the County Board last week that the school’s dual focus — a traditional elementary school program and a separate Montessori program — are becoming incompatible. The parents say having the two different programs operate under the same roof stresses both. [Sun Gazette]
Opening Statements in Arlington Sheriff’s Deputy Murder Trial — The murder trial for Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson began on Monday with opening statements from attorneys on both sides. Patterson is accused of shooting and killing Julian Dawkins during a confrontation in May. [Alexandria Times]
Google Doodle Commemorates Former Arlington Resident — Monday’s Google Doodle commemorated Grace Hopper’s 107th birthday. Hopper, who used to live in Pentagon City, was a pioneering computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. According to Wikipedia, “Grace Murray Hopper Park, located on South Joyce Street in Arlington, Virginia, is a small memorial park in front of her former residence (River House Apartments) and is now owned by Arlington County, Virginia.” [Google]
APS Mulling Ways to Handle Student Boom — With the number of students in Arlington Public Schools expected to surge from 23,500 to nearly 30,000, school officials say they’re going to have to make “some tough choices.” Among the ways the school system might accommodate the extra students: “increasing class sizes, extending the school day, year-round schooling, installation of many more relocatable classrooms, and increasing the number of ‘virtual’ classes.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Latino Students Explore Careers — Some 200 Latino students from around Arlington attended a leadership conference at George Mason University on Friday. The conference, now in its 21st year, features Latino professionals talking about how they pursued their education and careers. [Washington Post]
Wardian Wins Marathon, Competes in Another — Prolific local marathon runner Michael Wardian won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon the Sunday before last. That same day, the 39-year-old flew to Las Vegas and competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon, where he placed 10th. [Runners World]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Metro Weekend Service Adjustments — Due to work on the Metrorail system, trains on the Orange and Blue Lines will run every 24 minutes this weekend. The altered schedule begins at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, and runs through closing on Sunday, November 24. [WMATA]
Metro Sign Upgrades on the Way — By the end of the winter, Metrorail riders should notice a number of upgrades to the electronic signs announcing train arrivals. Some improvements include making the display crisper so it’s easier to read from a distance and temporarily stopping service advisories from scrolling on the screens when trains are arriving. [Washington Post]
ART System Expansion — At its meeting on Tuesday (November 19), the County Board approved a plan to expand the ART bus system within the next year. Two lines will be added and one line will have service later into the evening. [Sun Gazette]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six students at Arlington Career Center won first place for the video they submitted to the Virginia School Boards Association student video contest. High school students were challenged to create a 30 second video for the theme “What’s Super About Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Rosslyn Apartment Building to Sell for $220 Million — The JBG Cos. has reached a deal to sell its new Sedona Slate apartments in Rosslyn for $220 million. The company spent about $150 million to develop the two-building apartment project, which had a ribbon cutting ceremony in June. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Competition to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools (APS) announced a competition for data analysts to help the school system prevent students from dropping out. Analysts will help APS identify trends and hopefully will find ways to flag students who could use more one-on-one time with counselors. Assistant Superintendent for Information Services Raj Adusumilli told ARLnow.com the winning team of analysts likely will be announced by the end of this winter. Although no firm date is in place for finishing the data analysis, the school system anticipates being able to use the gathered information by about February 2014 in order to help students make class choices for next year. [Washington Post, Arlington Public Schools]
Opera Singer Wins Talent Competition — Opera singer Garrick Jordan won first place in the second annual “Arlington’s Got Talent” competition. Jordan beat out six other competitors on Sunday (November 18) at Clarendon Ballroom. [Sun Gazette]
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools held its annual Walk and Bike to School Day today (Wednesday), encouraging the tens of thousands of students in the system to avoid driving or busing to school.
Every APS school participated in the event, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, and three local farms donated apples that were distributed to six different schools.
The school system also held reading events at two schools, and students were encouraged to bring in books for a book swap.
Photos courtesy of Arlington Public Schools
Plans for the new school have been in the works for some time, and the Arlington School Board unanimously approved a conceptual design in February. Although a number of concerns from the community have arisen during the planning process, county staff recommends Board approval for the use permit.
One issue that previously prompted a meeting is the traffic impact a new school would have on the surrounding area. A study indicates traffic impacts only occur during a 15 to 20 minute “peak” period during school arrival and departure times. It is therefore suggested that the two schools stagger their start/end times to reduce this traffic impact, with Williamsburg having an earlier start time than the new school. Staff believes the new school’s parking lot has been adequately designed to prevent long lines of waiting cars from spilling into the neighboring streets during drop off and pick up times.
Throughout the planning process, the Rock Spring Civic Association had joined other members of the community in expressing concern over the plan to use the neighborhood’s street parking near the schools. However, county staff still recommends reducing the number of on-site spaces for the entire campus from 258 to 209 due to the availability of on-street parking. This goes along with the County Board’s approval of changes to the Zoning Ordinance in February to allow schools and recreational facilities to reduce the number of on-site parking spaces.
Another issue has been the proposal to re-construct the athletic fields on the campus, with two of them becoming synthetic turf fields with lighting. The idea prompted community members to create dueling petitions earlier this year. County staff recommends moving forward with the installation of the fields, but not with the lighting. Staff members recommend a County Board review of the use permit one year after the fields open (approximately September 2016) to see whether lighting is necessary.
Arlington 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.
Ft. Myer Alarm System Test Today — In conjunction with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Operations, the Department of State will test an alarm system on Summerall Field on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base at 2:30 p.m. today. Residents near the area can expect to hear high noise levels. For more information call 703-696-0573.
September Start Date for Ashlawn Addition Construction — A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for 5:30 p.m. on September 6 for construction on the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School. Construction on the three level addition is expected to take about two years. The new portion will add about 26,000 square feet to the existing 69,000 square foot school building, allowing the capacity to grow from 524 students to about 680. [Sun Gazette]
Grants for Non-profits — Arlington County is accepting grant proposals from non-profit organizations that help residents with physical and/or sensory disabilities. Projects should increase or maintain independence and community integration for residents with disabilities through empowerment focused services. The 2015-2016 Regional Grants to Disability Groups Application Packet can be found online. Grant proposals are due by September 30. [Arlington County]