Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Vision, Mission and School Goals

After a year of much discussion and work with staff, parents and students, we are proud to share our new school Vision, Mission and Goals.

I want to thank Lisa Smithson for leading us through this process and all of the other members of the WLMS learning community who shared ideas, feedback and helped us formulate these statements about the important work we are doing here at our school.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gaming Theory

An article about video games and learning, published in the New York Times Magazine, has been garnering lots of attention this week. The article profiles a number of advocates for games for education and several programs, notably Quest to Learn, the nation's first public school based on the principles of game design, in New York City. (Source: New York Times Video)

Source: Edutopia

MiddleWeb's Best Websites for Teachers

I always enjoy visiting MiddleWeb's online resource for middle school educators. During tonight's Sunday Night Football game featuring the battle of the Mannings: Colts vs. Giants , I navigated my way to this wonderful resource...

I encourage you to check it out!

Dr. Fennell Talks to Howard County Math Teachers About the Common Core

Interesting thoughts from Dr. Fennell about the current state of mathematics instruction.

Here is a link to his presentation to Howard County educators on September 3, 2010.

Who is Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell?

Dr. Fennell is a mathematics educator and has experience as a classroom teacher, a principal, and a supervisor of instruction. He is currently Professor of Education at McDaniel College and recently completed a 2-year term as President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Widely published in professional journals and textbooks related to elementary and middle-grade mathematics education, Dr. Fennell has also authored chapters in yearbooks and resource books published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In addition, he has played key leadership roles the Research Council for Mathematics Learning, the Mathematical Sciences Education Board, the National Science Foundation, the Maryland Mathematics Commission, the United States National Commission for Mathematics Instruction, and the Association for Mathematics Teacher Educators. Dr. Fennell recently served on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, chairing the Conceptual Knowledge and Skills Task Group. (Source: Dr. Fennell's website)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Do You Know What Your Kids Are Drinking?

As you know, kids of all ages are consuming large numbers of s0-called energy drinks. Energy drinks are soft drinks advertised as boosting the energy of the person consuming the beverage. While some of these drinks do increase one's short-term energy, the drink manufacturers rarely share that the energy that is created is derived from the large amount of calories that these types of drinks contain. Rather, the beverage manufacturers emphasize that their products deliver energy from various kinds of caffeine, vitamins, and herbal supplements that they have "scientifically" combined to improve one's performance.

If you talk to middle schoolers, a large number will share that these types of drinks are better for your health than water. Further, some adolescents believe that they perform better in school and on the athletic field if they consume "energy drinks" on a regular basis.

If these products alone did not cause parents and educators to worry about their children's health, I recently came across a presentation by Vincent Fasano, a police officer assigned to work in a high school, who provided the following information on "energy" drinks. I was so alarmed, I wanted to share his presentation with you.

Do You Know the Difference?

Which One of These Contains Alcohol?

Some Others to Know...

Thanks to Cindy Dillon for sharing this with me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ready for Some Football?

It is such a wonderful time of the year! No, not because school is back in is time for Redskins' football. This is the time of the year that hope runs eternal for me and all Redskin's fans. Will this be the year my team returns to glory? Will the new coach, new general manager and new quarterback have the answers to bringing a winning season to the nation's capital and a possible playoff appearance? Here's hoping... AND...Hail to the Redskins!

Sorry Cowboy fans... ; )

Let's Get Organized Night Is A Big Hit!

This past Tuesday evening, Ms. Berla presented "Let's Get Organized" for sixth grade parents. She shared strategies on how to manage all of the information that will be provided and how to help sixth graders organize themselves so that they can be successful.

For more information about this presentation, please contact school counselor Berla at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cyber-bullying defies traditional school bully stereotype

By Gregg MacDonald
Fairfax County Times/Washington Post
Thursday, September 2, 2010

The advent of social networking sites and text messaging has allowed young girls the opportunity to take on a role traditionally reserved for boys, experts say.

The girls have become bullies -- or, more specifically, cyber-bullies.

The Virginia Department of Education defines cyber-bullying as "using information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cellphones, text messaging, instant messaging and Web sites to support deliberate, hostile behavior intended to harm others."

Cyber-bullying in Fairfax County public schools seems to occur primarily in middle schools, said Sgt. William H. Fulton of Fairfax County police, school resource officer supervisor.

"There are lots of threats and innuendos made through social networking sites, such as Facebook," he said. "A boy may break up with a girl, and sides may begin to form against one of the two parties. Before you know it, exchanges are made online and can potentially lead to trouble back at school."

Social networking sites allow teenagers to post events in their lives in real time, said Ilana Reyes, a counselor at Annandale High School.

"It is so easy to say negative things through texting and online because you are not face-to-face with the person you're talking about," Reyes said. "Bullies say things and feel all big and bad because they are at home behind a computer, or on a phone, and aren't there to see the ramifications or the impact that it has on the other person."

Research suggests that girls are more likely than boys to engage in cyber-bullying but that both can be perpetrators and victims. "Without question, the nature of adolescent peer aggression has evolved due to the proliferation of information and communications technology," said Sameer Hinduja of the Cyber-bullying Research Center at Florida Atlantic University. "There have been several high-profile cases involving teens taking their own lives in part because of being harassed and mistreated over the Internet."

The center's research has shown that adolescent girls are significantly more likely than boys to partake in and experience cyber-bullying. Girls also are more likely to report cyber-bullying to a parent or teacher. The center's research also suggests that the type of cyber-bullying tends to differ by gender; girls are more likely to spread rumors, while boys are more likely to post hurtful pictures or videos.

A survey by the center found that cyber-bullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had experienced no cyber-bullying.

According to Virginia Department of Education guidelines, cyber-bullying can include sending "mean, vulgar or threatening" messages or images; posting sensitive or private information about another person; or intentionally excluding someone from an online group.

In Virginia, making a written threat, including those via texting, e-mail, instant messaging and the Internet, is a Class 6 felony.

Lucinda Crabtree of Falls Church knows the effects of cyber-bullying. When a friend's teen daughter committed suicide last year, potentially as a result of cyber-bullying, Crabtree decided she needed to act. She began researching ways to make parents more aware of their teen's online language and behavior.

"I felt there was a cyber-communications gap between parents and their teens," she said. "We've all had a sort of secret language growing up, and kids today are no different. They have their own online and texting lingo. I felt that a better understanding of this cyber communication by my friend may have helped her recognize the warning signs in her daughter's behavior."

Crabtree formed a volunteer panel of teens, parents, teachers, health care workers and law enforcement professionals. The group researched the meanings of popular texting codes, Internet terminology and emoticons -- smiley faces in messages that impart meanings.

"It was a serious education," Crabtree said. "For example, I had no idea that a percent sign can mean being high or drunk" or that a "four-pounder" is code for a .45-caliber Colt pistol.

Crabtree unveiled a software application, LRNtheLingo, last month that parents can use in the same way they might an online dictionary of cyber and slang terms. She wants to make the application available to public safety and school professionals.

"Teachers and school resource officers need to learn to identify this secret online language as well as parents," she said. "If this helps just one cyber-bullying victim, it will be very rewarding."

"Parents do need to get more involved and monitor what their kids are writing online," Reyes said. "Cellphone use in Fairfax County schools is prohibited. So most cyber-bullying occurs off school grounds, outside the reach of teachers or school resource officers."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Former Washington Redskin, Chris Draft, Reads His Book to Maryland Students

Maryland Wins Second Round Race to the Top Grant

Nine States and the District of Columbia Win
Second Round Race to the Top Grants

August 24, 2010


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that 10 applicants have won grants in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition. Along with Phase 1 winners Delaware and Tennessee, 11 states and the District of Columbia have now been awarded money in the Obama Administration's groundbreaking education reform program that will directly impact 13.6 million students, and 980,000 teachers in 25,000 schools.

The 10 winning Phase 2 applications in alphabetical order are: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

"These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children," said Secretary Arne Duncan. "Every state that applied showed a tremendous amount of leadership and a bold commitment to education reform. The creativity and innovation in each of these applications is breathtaking," Duncan continued. "We set a high bar and these states met the challenge."

While peer reviewers rated these 10 as having the highest scoring plans, very few points separated them from the remaining applications. The deciding factor on the number of winners selected hinged on both the quality of the applications and the funds available.

"We had many more competitive applications than money to fund them in this round," Duncan said. "We're very hopeful there will be a Phase 3 of Race to the Top and have requested $1.35 billion dollars in next year's budget. In the meantime, we will partner with each and every state that applied to help them find ways to carry out the bold reforms they've proposed in their applications."

A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia put together comprehensive education reform plans to apply for Race to the Top in Phases 1 and 2. Over the course of the Race to the Top competition, 35 states and the District of Columbia have adopted rigorous common, college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, and 34 states have changed laws or policies to improve education.

Every state that applied has already done the hard work of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda. In the coming months, the Department plans to bring all States together to help ensure the success of their work implementing reforms around college- and career-ready standards, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and school turnarounds.

In addition to the reforms supported by Race to the Top, the Department has made unprecedented resources available through reform programs like the Investing in Innovation Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the School Improvement Grants under Title I.

Through all of these programs, the Department of Education will be distributing almost $10 billion to support reform in states and local communities.

"As we look at the last 18 months, it is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened at the state and local levels, unleashed in part by these incentive programs," Duncan said.

As with any federal grant program, budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Department, and the money will be distributed over time as the grantees meet established benchmarks.

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in reform. The program includes $4 billion for statewide reform grants and $350 million to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments, which the Department plans to award in September. The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas:

* Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
* Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
* Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
* Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

The 10 winning applicants have adopted rigorous common, college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, created pipelines and incentives to put the most effective teachers in high-need schools, and all have alternative pathways to teacher and principal certification.

In the first round of competition supporting state-based reforms, Delaware and Tennessee won grants based on their comprehensive plans to reform their schools and the statewide support for those plans.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Feeling Old? If not, Read this...

At the beginning of a new school year, it is the perfect time to reflect on another year gone by... we are all at least one year older, the kids in our schools seem so much younger, and the gap between old and cool appears to be getting wider (just ask my daughter). Again this year, a Wisconsin school, Beloit College, has compiled their annual Mindset List reminding all of us just how old we are becoming and how young and inexperienced college freshman really are.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch only a handful, have always been the norm. Since "digital" has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them. A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach this new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older. (Source: Beloit College Mindset List, 2014)

My favorites from this year's list include:

(This month, almost 2 million first-year students will head off to college campuses around the country. Most of them will be about 18 years old and were born in 1992.)

1. For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

2. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

3. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

4. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

5. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

6. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

7. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

8. Entering college this fall in a country where a quarter of young people under 18 have at least one immigrant parent, they aren’t afraid of immigration…unless it involves "real" aliens from another planet.

9. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

10. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

11.Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

12. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

13. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

14. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

15. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

16. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

17. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

18. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

19. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

20. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

21. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

22. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

23. The first home computer they probably touched was an Apple II or Mac II; they are now in a museum.

24. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

25. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

26. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

27. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

28. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

29. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

30. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

31. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

32. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

33. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone.

34. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

35. Beethoven has always been a good name for a dog.

36. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

37. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

38. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

39. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

40. It seems the Post Office has always been going broke.

Bonus… the nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing (and my guess is they never will).

Thanks to Mike Smith for the idea -