Class Struggle: Extra Credit


Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 12/30/2009

Why Washington area schools are the best

I remember asking seniors in an government class at T.C. Williams about the differences between them. The teacher, Jack Esformes, had put in the same class Advanced Placement students heading for college and regular students praying for the last bell. Weren’t they uncomfortable, all mixed together? They fiercely defended their pride at being one exciting class, with contributions from everyone. In their eyes, I was just another clueless visitor trying to stereotype them.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 12/30/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Shangri-la of public education, Washington area schools, challenge in schools, school diversity

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 12/23/2009

What are you doing here? Go be Christmasy.

You will also find a new Friday column as usual here on Christmas day. It is exclusive to the Web site. I can do pretty much what I want with it. My editors seem to worry less about it since it doesn't appear in print, an old-fashioned view, but there it is.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 12/23/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Christmas Eve, Jay Mathews is a dork, No Local Living column, family oriented editors

Posted at 12:23 PM ET, 12/17/2009

Extra Credit: Are we dumbing down 9th grade physics?

I recently looked on the MCPS website and I see that the review for semester A Physics 2010 is now releasing the questions, worth 15 % of the exam, in advance. These are specific questions, not topic guidelines. Any teacher can give the answers the day before the test and the answers will be regurgitated word for word on test day.

By Jay Mathews  |  12:23 PM ET, 12/17/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  9th grade physics, Anita O'Neill, Montgomery County, science course sequence, watered down tests

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 12/09/2009

Why gifted classes are not enough: the Warren Buffett case

For Warren Buffett, school was a problem. He was so bored in class and so eager to pursue his business ideas that his grades fell and he dabbled in grand larceny. His prime target was Sears on Wisconsin Avenue. He stole hundreds of golf balls and once walked out of the store, unmolested, with a full bag of new clubs he had not paid for.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 12/09/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Morton Sherman, Warren Buffett, gifted class discrimination, gifted education, home schooling

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 12/02/2009

Would suburban parents send their kids to D.C. schools?

“Nationally, there were 2,736 magnet schools educating roughly 2 million students in the 2005-06 school year,” Kahlenberg said in his paper. “By comparison, in that year, there were 4,000 charter schools educating about 1 million students. Like charter schools, there are good magnet schools and bad ones — and not all, by any means, are able to attract middle-class students into schools located in disadvantaged areas. But the best ones can serve as models for turning around failing schools.”

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 12/02/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Knowledge Is Power Program, Richard Kahlenberg, Tobin school, Wexford elementary school, achievement gap, charter schools, economic backgrounds, economic integration, magnet schools

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 11/25/2009

Too hard to pick the right high school

The suburban districts themselves employ people with encyclopedic knowledge of what is available for students of every learning style. Why not put them at prominent tables at those open houses with big signs that say, “IF NOBODY HAS ANSWERED YOUR QUESTIONS, ASK ME.”

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 11/25/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  ADD, Northwood High School, high school choice, learning disabilities, special education

Posted at 05:49 AM ET, 11/24/2009

Extra Credit--Homeschooling means more writing

We are homeschooling this year, and early on, my 13-year-old son said, "You know, you're making us do a lot more writing than I'm used to." (This said, of course, as if I hadn't realized it and would give them some relief. Ha!) He has since dropped his objection and has started to make some progress on short writing assignments, which is how I'm starting out. My daughter, who is 11, embraced my writing requirements and is currently working on a 10,000 word novella for a writing contest (her idea, not mine).

By Jay Mathews  |  05:49 AM ET, 11/24/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Kathy Rondon, home schooling, student research, term papers

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 11/18/2009

High school research papers: a dying breed

The leading U.S. proponent of more research work for the nation’s teens is Will Fitzhugh, who has been publishing high school student papers in his Concord Review journal since 1987. In 2002, he persuaded the Albert Shanker Institute to fund a study of research paper writing by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut. The results were as bleak as he expected. Sixty-two percent of the 400 high school history teachers surveyed never assigned a paper as long as 3,000 words, and 27.percent never assigned anything as long as 2,000 words.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 11/18/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Christin Roach, Doris Burton, Prince George's County Schools, Rebecca D. Cox, Will Fitzhugh, high school term papers, student research, writing instruction

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 11/11/2009

Why was Maryland the only state to stop tuition increases?

[This is my Local Living section column for Nov. 12] I often interview educators and gather data to find which high schools are doing the best job teaching kids. It is satisfying work, with the biggest payoff in visiting...

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 11/11/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 01:53 PM ET, 11/05/2009

Why I hope others get to algebra sooner than I did

[This is my Local Living column for Nov. 5, 2009] Sputnik got me into algebra early, almost. The Soviet satellite frightened the U.S. government into approving lots of money to accelerate math instruction just as I was completing eighth...

By Jay Mathews  |  01:53 PM ET, 11/05/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 02:00 AM ET, 10/22/2009

Is America's best school too good for grade point bonuses?

Note to readers: Thursday the Post launches its new Local Living section, which will include a bonus Class Struggle column each week from me. That means my weekly Thursday Extra Credit column answering reader questions is no more, since...

By Jay Mathews  |  02:00 AM ET, 10/22/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 02:26 PM ET, 09/02/2009

An Unmentionable Factor in College Admissions

In a recent posting on the comments page of last week's Friday Trends column [Will Advanced Placement Replace the SAT?] on this blog, a reader identifying herself as Crimsonwife asked a good question:...

By Jay Mathews  |  02:26 PM ET, 09/02/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 06/18/2009

Should Advanced Elementary Students Be Bussed to a Middle School?

Dear Extra Credit: I am a former Montgomery County public schools employee, a parent of two in the system and a lifelong educator. An accelerated math program is presenting a unique challenge for the whole system. As a parent,...

By Washington Post Editors  |  11:22 AM ET, 06/18/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  Accelerated Math, Montgomery Public Schools, bureaucracy

Posted at 03:12 PM ET, 06/11/2009

Extra Credit: What Sort of Family Wants Stories Like This?

Dear Extra Credit: I am a soon-to-be stepmother to a lovely 12-year-old girl. She recently brought home a bright pink book with yellow smiley faces on the cover titled "TTYL" (Talk To You Later, in text/Internet-speak). The author is Lauren...

By Washington Post Editors  |  03:12 PM ET, 06/11/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  middle school, school reading

Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 06/04/2009

Extra Credit: There's a Place for Cut-and-Paste Learning, And It's Not Fourth Grade

Dear Extra Credit: Because you asked, I think I can give you a fairly clear example of how the emphasis on testing is taking over instructional methods. I have three children in Fairfax County schools. When my sons (now...

By Washington Post Editors  |  12:52 PM ET, 06/04/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  testing

Posted at 11:56 AM ET, 05/28/2009

Extra Credit: Unorthodox Approaches to Apathetic Students

Dear Extra Credit: Maria Glod's May 6 article on dual enrollment ["College-School Partnerships Offer Head Start on Higher Education"] made me think that you might enjoy learning about parents who have begun to think outside the box when it comes...

By Washington Post Editors  |  11:56 AM ET, 05/28/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  study abroad

Posted at 10:46 AM ET, 05/28/2009

Extra Credit: With All This Weight, What Student Needs an Anchor?

Dear Extra Credit: This is in response to the reader who questioned why more schools with block schedules don't have "anchor days" on Mondays, where students have every class. The short answer: My high-schooler can barely manage her backpack with...

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:46 AM ET, 05/28/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 05/14/2009

Extra Credit: Providing Equal Access to Full-Day Kindergarten

In the education-reform shopping mall, the product moving fastest off the shelves appears to be early-childhood programs. Florida voters were so eager for pre-kindergarten classes that they passed a statewide ballot measure they could not afford. Similar measures have...

By Washington Post Editors  |  03:06 PM ET, 05/14/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit | Tags:  kindergarten

Posted at 02:39 PM ET, 04/02/2009

Extra Credit: Issues With Block Scheduling?

Dear Extra Credit: For the past two years, my son attended Herndon High School part time for advanced math classes, and we found the ABABA BABAB schedule confusing. We had to frequently check the master schedule, as a given day...

By Washington Post Editors  |  02:39 PM ET, 04/02/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:34 AM ET, 04/02/2009

Extra Credit: Perplexing Test Scores

Dear Extra Credit: We recently received the results of the Degrees of Reading Power test for our sixth-grader, and I am perplexed by the letter from Arlington public schools that accompanied the test results, just as I was when our...

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:34 AM ET, 04/02/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 09:43 AM ET, 03/26/2009

Extra Credit: Students Speak Out on AP and the Challenge Index

Dear Extra Credit Readers: Advanced Placement English teacher Allison Beers asked her 11th-grade students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County to critique my annual rankings, in The Washington Post and Newsweek, of public high schools. I use...

By Washington Post Editors  |  09:43 AM ET, 03/26/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 09:18 AM ET, 03/19/2009

Extra Credit: Damaging Changes in Kindergarten?

Dear Extra Credit: We have two sets of twins who are in fourth grade and kindergarten at a well-regarded public school in Bowie. The difference I see in the four years since my older children were in kindergarten is astounding....

By Washington Post Editors  |  09:18 AM ET, 03/19/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:16 AM ET, 03/12/2009

Proper Grammar Is Not a Prerequisite for AP English

Dear Extra Credit: I have no children in county schools at this point, but I read Extra Credit fairly faithfully and remember debates about Advanced Placement courses and which students could be in them, should be in them or perhaps...

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:16 AM ET, 03/12/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 03:00 AM ET, 03/05/2009

Check Your Assumptions at the Home-School Door

Dear Extra Credit: Did you purposefully misrepresent Daneen Smedile's letter of Jan. 15? Her letter addressed how she got over the guilt of sending her son to school instead of educating him at home. Your choice of headline tarnished her...

By Washington Post Editors  |  03:00 AM ET, 03/05/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 02/26/2009

Extra Credit: Don't Count on College Credits For AP, IB Courses

Dear Extra Credit: Why take International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses? This topic has been and will continue to be debated for a long time. The ideal reason would be to take challenging courses. As a former AP teacher, present-day...

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:07 AM ET, 02/26/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 02/19/2009

Extra Credit: Are Older Teachers Too Jaded to Be Effective?

Dear Extra Credit: I read the tribute to Michael and Virginia Spevak, a murdered couple, in the Dec. 1 Metro section, in which your column on the new principal at Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson ["New D.C. Principal, Hand-Picked Team...

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:07 AM ET, 02/19/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:22 AM ET, 02/12/2009

Extra Credit: Safeguarding the Standards for GED Testing

Dear Extra Credit: As former students and educators, we at GED Testing Service certainly understand that some academic subjects can be more challenging than others. The GED tests, however, are designed to measure outcomes of a national high school curriculum....

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:22 AM ET, 02/12/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 02/05/2009

Extra Credit: Two Radically Different AP Experiences

Dear Extra Credit Readers: Here are two students with sharply different views of Advanced Placement, the program of college-level courses and testing in high school. Who is right? Dear Extra Credit: Concerning your Nov. 3 column ["Wide Access to AP,...

By Washington Post Editors  |  12:05 PM ET, 02/05/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 01:36 PM ET, 01/29/2009

Extra Credit: Finding a Solution to the IB vs. AP Dilemma

Dear Extra Credit: My son is attending an International Baccalaureate high school in Fairfax County, and I have been reading with interest the discussions regarding IB vs. Advanced Placement. A colleague who lives in the Charlotte area also has a...

By Washington Post Editors  |  01:36 PM ET, 01/29/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 01/22/2009

Excluding Home-Schoolers Benefits Nobody

Dear Extra Credit: Eight years ago, our kids' elementary schools could not or would not meet their academic needs, so we began our journey into home schooling. Unfortunately, Maryland, where we live, has long been unfriendly to nontraditional forms of...

By Washington Post Editors  |  01:23 PM ET, 01/22/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 01/15/2009

Parent Says Some Things Can't Be Taught at Home

Dear Extra Credit: I don't have anything against home schooling -- for other people -- but I could not see myself doing it for my three children. I am quite capable of coordinating and conducting lessons, but I cannot see...

By Washington Post Editors  |  01:13 PM ET, 01/15/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 01:08 PM ET, 01/08/2009

The Balance Sheet on Requiring Advanced Math

Dear Extra Credit: Referring to your Oct. 30 column ["In the Real World, Advanced Math Doesn't Always Add Up"], you might not use the specific tools of mathematics every day, but where else in your academic career do you learn...

By Washington Post Editors  |  01:08 PM ET, 01/08/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 12:58 PM ET, 12/18/2008

Advanced Math Is a Challenge. What's Wrong With That?

Dear Extra Credit Readers: Jerry W. Miller's suggestion ["In the Real World, Advanced Math Doesn't Always Add Up," Oct. 30] that schools might be requiring too much math inspired so many letters that I needed several extra fingers and toes...

By Washington Post Editors  |  12:58 PM ET, 12/18/2008 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 12/04/2008

Betting Against a Big Drop in Graduation Rates

Dear Extra Credit: A side effect of the High School Assessments requirement in Maryland will be that the Challenge Index rank will improve significantly for Maryland public schools, even though the schools might not have improved. Consider, for example, a...

By Washington Post Editors  |  12:30 PM ET, 12/04/2008 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit

Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 11/30/2008

What is Extra Credit?

Jay Mathews answers readers' questions on education in a column published in The Extras. To check out more of Jay's Extra Credit advice or submit your own question, visit his Extra Credit posts....

By Washington Post Editors  |  10:41 AM ET, 11/30/2008 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Extra Credit