Red Apple Mom

September 29, 2011

Students Busted in SAT Cheating Scandal

Check out this story from ABC News.

Six high school students in New York state – including one female – paid a male college student about $2K to take their SAT for them.

The students were caught when officials noticed big disparities between each student’s SAT score and their GPA. That point caught my eye. Before FAIRGRADE was passed in 2009, our FAIRGRADE analysis demonstrated that while FCPS students had some of the best SAT scores in the nation, their GPAs were not demonstrating the same achievement. That point helped us demonstrate the need for grading policy reform. Looks like SAT and GPA disparities tell lots of stories!

It’s sad these New York students resorted to cheating. They should have put their money towards SAT prep courses instead. According to this story, the students are facing criminal actions for their decision to cheat.

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Students Busted in SAT Cheating Scandal, posted with vodpod

September 28, 2011

Louise Epstein Launches School Board Campaign Commercial

Louise Epstein, candidate for FCPS School Board – Dranesville District — today launched what is thought to be the first-ever campaign commercial to be produced in an election for the Fairfax County School Board.

The :60 spot titled “That’s the Key” focuses on Dranesville voters telling why they are voting for Louise Epstein for School Board – and the need for new leadership to represent Herndon, Great Falls and McLean.

The spot was produced in early September.

Epstein is challenging 18-year incumbent and current School Board Chair Jane Strauss.

In the past month, Epstein has received bi-partisan endorsements from:

✔ The Fairfax Education Association

✔ The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers

✔ Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform

✔ Congressman Frank Wolf

If you have trouble viewing the embedded spot, click on this link and you will be directly routed to Epstein’s campaign spot: http://www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com/adsvideos.html

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Louise Epstein “Who Are You Voting For School B…, posted with vodpod

September 27, 2011

Louise Epstein WON the Debate Big, Big, Big!

Louise Epstein CRUSHED School Board Chair Jane Strauss in their first debate held at McLean High School Monday night.

I know I’m biased as Louise’s campaign manager – but I have to say it – LOUISE ROCKED THE HOUSE – and that is not spin!

McLean Citizens Association Debate

Did Jane Strauss even bother to prepare?

All she offered were platitudes of the same old rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Strauss kept saying we have to prepare for the classrooms of tomorrow.  Well it’s not like she hasn’t had THAT opportunity!  She’s been there for 18 years.  Why wasn’t she preparing her district (McLean, Great Falls and Herndon)  for that at least a decade ago?!

Oh that’s right – she was too busy diverting money from McLean, Great Falls and Herndon to the rest of the county while her own constituents suffered with the largest class sizes and fewest resources.  (And still do suffer!)

FAIRGRADE Leadership Team

Janie’s lowest point, however, was her shocking attempt to take credit for FAIRGRADE.  Janie was AWOL on this issue for nearly two years.   I know because as FAIRGRADE’s Director of Communications, I was there and so was Louise.  Here are the facts:   Janie and Ilyrong Moon coerced another School Board member, Brad Center – who did all the behind-the-scenes whip count for FAIRGRADE – to let them make the motion on FAIRGRADE  and save their political butts.

Moon, you may recall was running for Board of Supervisors at the time – a seat he lost.  Janie was so badly floundering on the FAIRGRADE issue that her constituents were turning on her big time.  So Brad threw Janie a lifeline and let her make the motion and a grandiose speech. Strauss can lie if she wants to but Louise and I – and the rest of the FAIRGRADE leadership team – were there.  The facts don’t lie.  Furthermore, if Janie was the leader she claims to be on this issue – why did it take two years to get FAIRGRADE passed?  Pathetic.

Just some of the FAIRGRADE's awesome parents!!!

During the debate Louise exhibited excitement, an extreme depth of the issues, and she provided fresh insight about her motivations to strengthen our public school system with new leadership.  Many in the audience were surprised to learn that Louise grew up poor in New York’s projects with her mom and disabled father.  She went to Harvard on financial aid.  Louise conveyed how those experiences gave her a compassion for all kids because she’s experienced both poverty and prosperity in her own life.

Want to learn more?  Here are my notes from the debate and a copy of Louise’s campaign spot.

The debate sponsors wouldn’t let us videotape the event.  While the attachment below is not an official transcript, it does provide additional content from the debate.  Please read it and share with others who are interested in the race for School Board.

Esptein-Strauss Debate Notes

If you have trouble viewing the embedded spot, click on this link and you will be directly routed to Epstein’s campaign spot: http://www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com/adsvideos.html

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Louise Epstein “Who Are You Voting For School B…, posted with vodpod

September 23, 2011

Red Apple Mom on Fox 5 Morning News Re: Dale Retire Announcement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Red Apple Mom @ 6:09 pm

Thank you Fox 5 Morning News for inviting me to discuss Superintendent Jack Dale’s retirement announcement.

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Catherine Lorenze Comments on Jack Dale’s Retir…, posted with vodpod

September 22, 2011

Superintendent Jack Dale to R-E-T-I-R-E

Holy cow – if this wasn’t the shock of the day.

Check out what just came into my email box:

—————————————-
Local Politics News Alert: Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale to retire

September 22, 2011 8:38:50 PM
—————————————-

Fairfax County Superintendent Jack D. Dale, who has weathered a brutal recession and parent frustrations while steering one of the nation’s top-performing suburban school systems for the past seven years, said he will retire when his contract ends in June 2013.

Dale said he wanted to publicize his decision now so that the community knows his plans before an election that will determine the mission, vision and direction of the school system over the next decade.

http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/KYNZS9/5CXSI4/FXO790/VIAZSI/ZPY86/T3/h

For more information, visit PostLocal.com
—————————————-

Sounds like someone has seen the writing on the wall even BEFORE this November’s elections!

(Hey Superintendent – can you take Jane Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and Kathy Smith with you?)

I view this as a VERY shrewd move on Dale’s part.  It looks to me to be an election year bone thrown to his favorite School Board incumbents – Strauss – Moon and Smith who would love to focus your voter attention on a new Superintendent search this election rather than their own lame voting records.  Caution  voters – don’t fall for it.  This isn’t cynicism speaking.  This is a seasoned political consultant speaking.

It will be key to ask School Board candidates – and incumbents – what they’ll look for in a new superintendent.  However, it is just as important to look at how these incumbents have voted in the past and determine if any of them bring added value to the School Board compared to their challengers.

As for Dale, it will be interesting to see which high-priced job he takes next – and whether any of those offers come from companies who have current contracts with Fairfax County Public Schools!

Related Articles:

Red Apple Mom Appearance on Fox 5 Morning News – Washington, DC  <object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” id=”video” width=”320″ height=”280″ data=”http://www.myfoxdc.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=11212″><param

September 19, 2011

More Teacher Endorsements That Are “OVER” the Moon!

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) announced their endorsements for School Board today – and when I tell you they are “OVER” the Moon – I mean it.  They really are “OVER” Moon!    Yahoo!

12-year incumbent and School Board Vice-Chairman Ilryong Moon (At-Large)  was not endorsed by FCFT.

Who else is FCFT “over” and not endorsing?   School Board Chairman and 18-year incumbent Janie Strauss (Dranesville)  and the direct past-School Board Chairman Kathy Smith (Sully).  Make that ZERO teacher endorsements for both Strauss and Smith.  The Fairfax Education Association didn’t endorse them either when FEA issued its endorsements nearly two weeks ago.

I love this.  It’s “Political Bulimia” without the bingeing – just purge, purge, purge.  Out with incumbents who no longer bring added value — in with candidates who do.

Good for you FCFT!

Bravo to the teachers of Fairfax County who studied the candidates, their voting records, their words and actions – and THEN made their endorsements.

Red Apple Mom picks for School Board scored big with FCFT endorsements including:

Braddock District – Megan McLaughlin

Dranesville District – Louise Epstein

Mason District – Sandy Evans

Providence District – Patty Reed

Springfield District – Elizabeth Schultz

Sully District – Sheila Ratnam

At-Large:  Sheree Brown-Kaplan

At-Large:  Lolita Mancheno-Smoak

At-Large:  Steve Stuban

For a full list of FCFT’s endorsements, check out their website here:  www.FCFT.org

September 18, 2011

About Those Proposed Surveillance Cameras in High School Cafeterias…

Say what you will about today’s teenagers, but I’m not buying into the premise that a couple of mass food fights in the last year justify surveillance cameras in all of our Fairfax County High Schools.  

Aren’t we jumping the gun here just a wee bit?

The cost alone – $8000 per school – seems awfully excessive for one.

More importantly, though, when did ALL of our teens become public enemy #1 requiring video surveillance?

We want these kids to act like adults.  Aren’t there better ways to encourage them to do so?

I appreciate that FCPS is soliciting input from the PTAs (as they darn well should).

However, before we go all “Big Brother” on our kids, why not engage the student councils for their opinions too?

Isn’t this a perfect “leadership” opportunity for Fairfax County’s teens?  Perhaps the student body presidents could come up with some solutions that engage their school administrators to prevent “flash mob” cafeteria incidents.

When I was a teen, we could leave our school campus for lunch.  It gave us some responsibility.  It made us feel grown up.   Can’t we find better school lunchroom policies that would encourage our teens to “act adult” rather than “act out?”

I don’t like the message these surveillance cameras send to kids.  Do our teens really need to live under a big “eye in the sky” in our public schools here in Fairfax County?  Seriously – this isn’t Detroit.   (I can say that because I grew up there! 🙂 )

Here’s another idea I’ll throw out for consideration – Let’s call it the “High School TSA Fast Pass Option.”

Your child agrees to submit to a tight initial screening at the beginning of the school year – grilled by administrators about their potential threat as a potential “food-fight” participant.  If the student is deemed a non-threat, they can get their “TSA Fast Pass” and eat in peace without surveillance. 

Here’s another option – cafeteria ankle shackles.   That has to be cheaper than video cameras!  If your kid wants to eat, they have to lock up first. If a food fight begins, all the perps can be easily identified since they will already be shackled in place.  The added benefit to shackles –  no expensive technology upgrades!

Sarcasm aside, we’ll see how this issue plays out in the next few months.  However you feel about the issue, register your opinions with your administrators, School Board members, and PTA/PTO leadership.

Kudos though to the parent advocacy group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform who first brought this issue to the attention of the press.  Check out their arguments in the press release they issued last week.  FZTR News Release-Video Surveillance

Related Articles:

Fairfax Principals Want Indoor School Cameras  (Washington Post, September 17, 2011)

School Security Cameras Proposal Draws Parent Glares In Fairfax County (Fairfax County Times, September 16, 2011)

Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform

September 9, 2011

Flood Response?

Filed under: Fairfax County Public Schools — Red Apple Mom @ 3:08 pm
Tags: ,

I thought the response to yesterday’s floods by the FCPS schools in my area (Dranesville) was fantastic.

As swiftly as the waters were rising, my schools were issuing immediate calls for parents to pick up their children.

Unfortunately, some children were stranded at schools until late into the evening.  Buses and cars couldn’t get to or from schools and home.  However, most people I know had their children home safe and sound by dinnertime.

So bravo to the teachers, principals and PTA/PTO leaders who quickly rallied to action.  Quite a fire drill to throw into the mix on only the third day of the school year.

How did it go at your school(s) yesterday?

 

 

 

September 8, 2011

Look Who Teachers Did NOT Endorse for School Board

The Fairfax Education Association (FEA) issued its official list of endorsements for School Board Wednesday.  Guess who didn’t make the cut?  18-year incumbent School Board Chair Jane Strauss, Dranesville District — that’s who.

FEA also ignored the most recent past School Board Chair Kathy Smith, Sully District.

Ouch.  That’s gotta hurt.

FEA has drawn a serious line with their endorsements.  They are clearly backing School Board candidates whose work will continue to focus on teachers and kids rather than the army of bureaucrats who blindly carry out Superintendent Dale’s bidding at central headquarters.

Kudos to FEA for specifically stating in their press release that FEA is “party blind” with their endorsements.  FEA did a great job of doing just that – endorsing a number of highly qualified candidates that includes Democratic and Republican endorsed candidates as well as one Independent.

Red Apple Mom is VERY excited that several of my own picks for School Board received FEA’s endorsement including:

Louise Epstein – running against Incumbent Jane Strauss in the Dranesville District.  Website:  www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com

Megan McLaughlin – running for the open seat in the Braddock District.  Website:  www.mclaughlinforschoolboard.com

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak  – running for one of three At-Large seats.  Website:  www.lolita4schoolboard.com

Steve Stuban – running for one of three At-Large seats.  Website:  www.stubanforschoolboard.com

Sandy Evans – running unopposed in the Mason District.   Website:  www.evans4sb.org

Patty Reed – running unopposed in the Providence District.  Website:  www.pattyreed.org

I have great hope that a new School Board will welcome teachers back into the policy-making fold in FCPS.  Our great teachers are on the front lines in the classroom working with our kids every day.  They see what works and know what doesn’t.  I am highly encouraged that if November’s election results for School Board are favorable, teachers will once again be taken as serious partners whose opinions are solicited, valued and acted upon to improve Fairfax County Public Schools!

FEA Press Release

September 1, 2011

Honors Curriculum Delivered “Max Headroom” Style?

FACTS:

  • Over 1000 people have signed FAIRGRADE’s iPetition calling on FCPS to bring back upper-level, high school Honors courses.
  • FAIRGRADE and the Restore Honors group have advocated for this issue since February 2011.
  • The School Board held a work session on this issue AND DIRECTED the superintendent and his staff to bring them more information so that THE SCHOOL BOARD could make some informed decisions.

Any reasonable parent, teacher and taxpayer would think the process would play out with our elected officials – School Board members – engaging the public and teachers right?

WRONG.

Last Friday, Superintendent Dale informed the School Board that HE was making the decision to put two courses on-line and call them HONORS even though these classes will utilize the AP curriculum.  Good solution?   No.  Here’s why:

1.  Dale’s solution is not an HONORS solution.  The HONORS curriculum already exists so why not put THAT online? HONORS courses are appropriate, high school level courses.  Instead, Dale is putting up college-level AP course material but not requiring participating students to take the AP exam.  Since the student won’t be required to take the AP exam, how will there be any measurement that they mastered the material? Furthermore, parents and students want the high school HONORS curriculum- not “AP-Lite.”  Students already have the more demanding AP option and have expressed the desire to combine AP with less rigorous but still demanding HONORS courses.

2. Dale’s solution to parents’ calls for more rigor in curriculum choices puts students in front of a computer screen without a teacher who could provide the critical student feedback and engagement required of an upper-level course.  According to the proposal, students will meet “virtually” with their teacher one night per week.  How is this “Max Headroom” delivery going to work and are teachers really okay with that?!

3.  Once again, our unelected Superintendent is making curriculum and policy decisions WITHOUT proper oversight and approval from our ELECTED School Board members.  Why do we even have a school board then?!

4.  Principals, to FAIRGRADE’s knowledge, have been given no implementation plan for this proposal.  At least one principal has told FAIRGRADE he was very surprised to have this sprung on him only a week before school officially begins. This principal was emailing other principal colleagues for their input about handling potential teacher reassignments.  How’s that for poor FCPS planning?!

Here is the real story on Dale’s solution.  In part, it’s all political.  School Board Chair Janie Strauss can now run around and tell parents, “Look we listened.  We’re offering the courses on-line.  And in the process we’re going high-tech for students.”  In doing so, she’s hoping the HONORS issue won’t be a drag on her re-election campaign.  She’ll tell parents the problem is now solved – except the issue is not solved, and I bet she won’t tell parents any of the drawbacks I just outlined above.

Dale’s solution is also a set-up for failure of upper-level, HONORS courses.  It is poorly designed and contains no implementation plan.  Students don’t even know this option exists yet because principals just found out about it themselves.  And if students don’t know about it, then they won’t take the classes.  And that’s when FCPS will deliver the final HONORS death blow by announcing that there is no longer student interest in upper-levels, HONORS courses.   Mission accomplished on FCPS’ part with ZERO benefit to our students.

It would be nice to know if other school districts are going online with these courses and if there are any published success rates.  How many FCPS parents want their child to be a guinea pig in FCPS’ expansion into the new “online frontier” without any data to examine first?  I don’t.

Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions because our unelected superintendent and his staff have bypassed the School Board and did not get approval for this serious curriculum alteration. Parents upset with Dale’s solution ought to personally hold Jane Strauss accountable for permitting this to happen on her watch as School Board chair!  Her lack of leadership on this issue is astounding!

Final points to consider – these two proposed online courses are NOT honors material.  That much is clear.  Kudos that FCPS wants to go online but we should have a community-wide discussion about all aspects of this education delivery vehicle first.    If the goal is to go online, why not begin with foreign languages first?  Programs like Rosetta Stone can provide student feedback without a teacher.   Can FCPS say the same about advanced courses?  Without an engaged School Board to ask these questions, we don’t know.

Related News Articles:

Fairfax County Schools to Offer Honors Courses Online  (Washington Post – 9.1.11)

Online Honors Class Offerings Spark New Debate (Fairfax County Times – 9.2.11)

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