Articles tagged with virginia

How ambitious is too ambitious?

SampleIt sounds great in theory: Raise standards—and students will rise to the occasion.

But is that always the case?

That question currently is under debate in Fairfax County, Va., where some parents are challenging the plans of county school officials to phase out many honors courses.

School officials say the move makes sense. They want more students—particularly minority students—to test themselves to the fullest by enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

“We’ve found that traditionally underrepresented minorities do not access the most-rigorous track when three tracks are offered,” Peter Noonan, Fairfax County’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, told the Washington Post. “But when two tracks are offered, they do.”

So, in schools where an AP class is offered in a subject, officials plan to discontinue any parallel honors courses.

Not all parents see the decision as that simple. Without that middle ground course offering, opponents say, some students will decide that AP courses are too challenging academically or will demand more work than they’re willing to take on.

For those students, the only alternative remaining will be standard track courses. And some will choose to “dumb down” their education with less-academically challenging classes.

Enough parents are raising concerns that the school board has agreed to review its decision, but it’s unclear whether supporters of honors courses can resist what the Post describes as “a national trend to reduce the number of ‘tracks’ for students.”

Del Stover, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 26th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Financial literacy a hot topic, as recession reveals more needs to be done

stockvault_9810_20080130Beginning in September, Virginia schools will be required to teach a standalone financial education course to its high school students, and as can be expected the state mandate has touched off a vigorous debate among various special interest and education groups about the wisdom of a such a move.

Having just written a piece on financial literacy for the May edition of ASBJ, which is online and available for free viewing for a limited time, it was familiar territory to me and the arguments for each side are compelling.

On the one hand, there are school districts, which are already under serious financial strain with little to suggest that the pull between what they are able to do and what they are required to do will ease up anytime soon. Adding one more requirement, particularly one that is unfunded and some say is satisfied through other courses like math and social studies, is just plain impractible, as well as an infringement on local control.

On the other hand, we have a clear example right in front of us, of what can happen when ordinary citizens are not equipped with sound financial knowledge. Sure, these are skills that should be taught at home but the reality is they’re not.
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Naomi Dillon|May 16th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , , |

Save us from “lifestyles!” A modest proposal for Va.’s AG

08-ktc-floor-speech-portraitDon’t you just hate the redheaded lifestyle?  All those pigtails and freckles — that attitude that says “We’re one in 50 and so, so special.” Makes me want to gag.

Ditto for diabetics and their nasty little needles. Don’t they notice kids could be watching?

Finally, and then I’ll stop: Old People. Excuse me, Senior Citizens. Please, somebody: take them off our streets and let them drive their silly golf carts at their retirement homes — far away from the rest of us. 

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my disgust of alternative lifestyles. I have an ally in Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia. This month, as you may know, Cuccinelli sent letters to every Virginia public university saying they could no longer include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies because, in his view, the authority to add protected groups rests solely with the state legislature. And luckily, our ever-vigilant Virginia General Assembly has defeated attempts to include gay people in state nondiscrimination policies 25 times since 1997 — a record we can all be proud of.

Now there’s some question over whether the attorney general really has this kind of power over the universities, which have long been allowed — too long, some of us say — to go their own way regarding their antidiscrimination policies. In fact, as one letter-writer to The Washington Post pointed out last week, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and some other state universities have also include veterans as a protected class!
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Naomi Dillon|March 11th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , |

Bilingualism an asset in global future, but not a reality in today’s curriculum

School officials in Fairfax County, Va., understand well that foreign language instruction is critical if today’s students will be ready to compete in tomorrow’s highly competitive global economy.

But, as is so often the case, lofty education goals run afoul of financial realities.

Years ago, the Fairfax County, Va., school system called for all students to start early to learn a foreign language—in elementary school—so they would graduate with some fluency in a second language.

Yet now officials in this Washington, D.C., suburb are weighing budget cuts that endanger this innovative and logical instructional objective. At risk are language immersion programs existing in a dozen elementary schools as well as plans to add foreign language instruction to dozens more.

It’s not a given that the programs will be cut. “School officials say the early programs are crucial to producing a generation of bilingual students,” reported a recent Washington Post article. “Two or three years of high school French typically is not enough to get students beyond a beginner level.”

Any foreign language instructor will tell you the same thing. The earlier you start teaching a second language—and the longer you teach that language—the more likely you’ll end up with a bilingual student.
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Naomi Dillon|November 19th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Diversity, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

County grabs district’s savings to balance budget, but will it leave kids in a deficit?

When a county government needs $28 million to patch its budget, should its school board’s reserves be fair game?

According to the chairman of Loudoun County, Va., Board of Supervisors, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

“This is not our money. This is not the schools’ money. This is taxpayer money, plain and simple,” Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York said at a supervisors meeting last week, according to the Washington Post.  

And just like that, when the county board realized its estimates for the fiscal 2011 budget were dramatically in the red, they turned to the school coffers.

The school board had been saving up for a projected $70 million shortfall next year. It’s already seen cuts and class size increases this year and overcrowded schools have just become a fact of life.

From an outsider’s standpoint, maybe the supervisors have a point–this would be like amassing a large savings account instead of paying down balances on credit cards. Many Loudoun County residents complain that the school system, which receives some 70 percent of the local budget, needs to share the pain.

But as anyone who’s spent time in Loudoun County knows, there are some major systemic problems. (Disclosure: I recently lived there for two years).
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Naomi Dillon|October 28th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|Tags: , , , |
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