Class Struggle: Local Living

Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 11/30/2010

Why should pre-holiday school days be wasted?

I wrote this two weeks ago, knowing it would appear in the Local Living section of the Post on Thanksgiving. (It is appearing five days after that on because I couldn't reach my blog entry site from my mom's house in California.) Did I have a holiday theme when I started typing? Nope. Then I saw education expert Mike Schmoker suggest that teachers have regular days in which students do nothing but read and write.

By Jay Mathews  |  04:00 PM ET, 11/30/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Mike Schmoker, wasted school time on pre-vacation days. making that time count with reading and writing projects

Posted at 09:00 PM ET, 11/17/2010

Hiding exams from students

The parent at McLean High School was frustrated. Two years ago he had to go to the principal to force a teacher to let his daughter keep a copy of a graded test so she could get a better sense of her errors. Last month, it happened again with his son.

By Jay Mathews  |  09:00 PM ET, 11/17/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  McLean High School, parents complain students don't have enough time to analyze mistakes, practice growing in Fairfax and other districts, some teachers don't let students take some exams home, teachers creating homegrown standardized tests and want to use them more than once, tutors handicapped

Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 11/10/2010

How NOT to vote for school board

Last week, I voted for several people on the Montgomery County school board, one of the few times I ever thought about that body. As an education writer, I try to stay away from school boards. I know that sounds odd, but over the years, I have found school board meetings to be as interesting, newsworthy and uplifting as visits to the dentist. I avoid them.

By Jay Mathews  |  08:00 PM ET, 11/10/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  difficult to find what candidates think on the most important issues, have they supported the superintendent?, school board elections, why do they think low-income students on average do poorly in school?

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 10/20/2010

Students reject their school's high rank

My annual rankings of high schools were mentioned at a Town Meeting of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program recently. Some students said they didn’t like the great reputation I was giving their school.

By Jay Mathews  |  06:00 PM ET, 10/20/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Challenge Index, H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, H-B students say school's top rank obscures its traditions, call teachers by first name, film "Day After Tomorrow", most school management decisions made by student and staffer vote

Posted at 09:00 PM ET, 10/13/2010

Required essays in a physics class

In my search for signs of serious writing instruction in America high schools, I have stumbled across a rare creature: a physics teacher in Fairfax County who makes everyone in his honors classes enter a national science essay contest.

By Jay Mathews  |  09:00 PM ET, 10/13/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Dupont Challenge essay contest, Ed Linz, Fairfax County Va., Linz rejects Mathews call for essays for all, West Springfield High School, physics teacher requires essay writing

Posted at 11:58 AM ET, 10/07/2010

Why science careers, and courses, aren't so popular

The Obama administration loves the STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) idea. The Bush administration loved it. Colleges, from the biggest to the smallest, look for STEM grants. STEM is popular from sea to oily sea, from the mountains to the prairies, to every school board in every town in the nation. The only people having difficulty getting excited about STEM are the students who must take and pass the courses if the movement is to succeed.

By Jay Mathews  |  11:58 AM ET, 10/07/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Ann Emerson, STEM programs, Stafford County public schools, engineering, math, science, science courses often too touch, science jobs not well paid, technology

Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 09/29/2010

American schools lax on cheating

Some students want their schools to do something about cheating. In the mid-1990s, I served on a citizen-teacher-student governance committee at Scarsdale High School in Westchester County, N.Y. When our chairman asked whether anyone had any personal complaints about the school, our two student members raised a topic we had never addressed: cheating. Non-cheating students, they said, felt abused by lax enforcement.

By Jay Mathews  |  08:00 PM ET, 09/29/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Christopher L. Doyle, Education Week, cheating gotten worse since the 1960s, student blame teachers for being lax, student cheating

Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 09/22/2010

Why grade-skipping should be back in fashion

I have seen no data to confirm this, but it seems to me that schools rarely consider skipping students ahead anymore. I have talked to Washington area administrators about this. They are uncomfortable with the approach. They think students who are above grade level learn better--with some extras thrown in--if they stick with kids their age.

By Jay Mathews  |  08:00 PM ET, 09/22/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, Gifted Exchange blog, Zumi Elementary School, acceleration better than gifted education classes, grade skipping, grade skipping less common than before

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 09/15/2010

What D.C. schools could learn from the suburbs

Some of our suburban districts have made great strides in raising the achievement of low-income students with energetic policies that had to overcome resistance.

By Jay Mathews  |  06:00 PM ET, 09/15/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Arlington focus on black and Hispanic student achievement, D.C. suburbs have success in raising low income student achievement, Fairfax AP and IB programs, Montgomery County reading program

Posted at 05:30 AM ET, 09/02/2010

What your college counselor doesn't know

An insightful new book on the admissions process has convinced me that many hardworking and thoughtful high school counselors have a weak spot that I have overlooked. Both they and I don’t have as deep an understanding of the intricacies of college finance as is needed in this era of huge tuition bills.

By Jay Mathews  |  05:30 AM ET, 09/02/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Debt-Free U, High school counselors are weak on financing college, Zac Bissonnette book, tendency to favor expensive private colleges

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 07/28/2010

Patrick Welsh is wrong about too many going to college

Morgan and Welsh make the mistake of seeing college as nothing more than a route to certain careers, unnecessary for those who, as Morgan says, “fix our cars and computers and clean up oil spills in Louisiana.” The life-long benefits of four years studying the world, testing one’s interests and communing with other thoughtful young adults seem lost on them. What do they say of other vital life choices that can cost as much as college and still have little connection to future job prospects? Would Morgan or Welsh argue that starting a family, joining a church or buying a home are similarly a waste of time?

By Jay Mathews  |  06:00 PM ET, 07/28/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  Eugene Morgan, Patrick Welsh, encouraging people who want to limit challenge for all, they exaggerate the pressure to go to college, they overlook the non-career benefits of college, they say too many students go to college

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 07/21/2010

Power of books my wife grew up with

A new study, based on 20 years of research, suggests that children who have 500 or more books in the home get, on average, 3.2 years more schooling than children in bookless homes. Even just 20 books makes a difference. The availability of reading material has a strong impact on a child’s education, even when controlling for the effects of parental education, father’s occupation, gender, nationality, political system and gross national product.

By Jay Mathews  |  06:00 PM ET, 07/21/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  500 books means 3.2 more years of education on average, Reno, University of Nevada, in China 6.6 years, more books in the home advances children's education, my wife's 300 books, scholar Mariah Evans

Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 07/14/2010

Students weren't taught research writing

English professor Kate Simpson said she discovered that 40 percent of her 115 students thought that their high schools had not prepared them for college-level writing. Only 23 percent thought they had those writing skills.

By Jay Mathews  |  08:00 PM ET, 07/14/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  23 percent said some, 40 percent of one professor' freshman class said they had none, Kate Simpson, Lord Fairfax Community College, high schools fail to teach research writing

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 07/07/2010

Your SAT score has little to do with your life

Researchers Stacy Berg Dale and Alan Krueger, studying data on 23,572 students who entered college in 1976, concluded that the character traits students acquire long before they pay their SAT prep-course fees are what determine success in life. The four-digit (or for some three-digit) scores they get on the SAT don’t mean much long term.

By Jay Mathews  |  06:00 PM ET, 07/07/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  former Congressman Bob Edgar (730), former Senator Bill Bradley (485 on the verbal), great people with bad SAT scores, the late Senator Paul Wellstone (under 900), why SATs don't matter in life

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 06/30/2010

How NOT to write a college application essay

Let’s dispense quickly with the basics of writing how not to write a college application essay. The first rule is, do not dwell on your good grades, top scores, club presidencies and other triumphs. The essay is supposed to reveal something the college admissions people have not already learned from the rest of your application. If all you do in your essay is talk about what a star you are, you will be rejected, because no one wants to inflict such a bore on an unsuspecting freshman-year roommate.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 06/30/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  be self-deprecating, don't dwell on your strengths, how not to write a college essay

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 06/23/2010

Pretend your college interviewer is grandma's friend

The point of a college interview is to show that you are a good person and that you are polite and interesting and have a sense of humor about yourself and the unnerving admissions process. That means you have to be, as you have been told many times, yourself, which is not so easy in those circumstances.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 06/23/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  express an contrarian political view, handling college interviews, make a joke, pretend the interviewer is a friend of grandma, take risks, think of some questions beforehand

Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 06/17/2010

Why mom disliked my summer reading

When I was a child, books were my life. My mother urged me to go outdoors in the summer, but I often ignored her. If the library had a summer reading club, I was a member. If there was a competition to read the most books in a month, I was drooling in anticipation of my victory, although sometimes (my mother, 93, still reminds me of this) I picked ridiculously thin books to inflate my score.

By Jay Mathews  |  12:00 PM ET, 06/17/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  loosening the rules, part of the culture, required summer reading, why Jay's mother didn't like him reading

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 06/09/2010

Look for fun, not facts, on your campus visits

Applying to college is stressful enough without every step in the process requiring a clipboard. The average family visit occurs when we are on vacation, for pity’s sake. Why can’t we treat the day like a pleasant stop at a well-known tourist attraction, full of history and intriguing architecture and maybe even free snacks?

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 06/09/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  college campus visits, don't bring a clipboard, have fun, save serious fact-finding for April after your student has been accepted

Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 04/14/2010

Washington area's top education bloggers

Several weeks ago, my blogging colleague Valerie Strauss (The Answer Sheet) and I announced our picks for best education blogs of this year. Our favorites were a diverse bunch, with many witty teachers, incisive journalists and droll experts of other kinds providing unusual perspectives. But Washington area education bloggers were severely underrepresented. I found only two, one in Fairfax County and one in the District, who had the acidity and depth I craved.

By Jay Mathews  |  10:00 PM ET, 04/14/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Local Living | Tags:  GFBrandenburg's, Guy Brandenburg, Tim Stahmer,, top Washington area education bloggers