Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

GW Falls to No. 3!

GWU (wikimedia)

GWU (wikimedia)

This year’s list of the Most Expensive Colleges for 2009-2010 is out, and the leaderboard has changed over previous years. Former Most Expensive College George Washington (2007-08) has “slipped” from the number two to the number three spot with a total cost estimate of $51,730. Close behind at number seven is that other local tuition “powerhouse,” Georgetown.  Other institutions that are at least somewhat close-by on the top 100 list include: Johns Hopkins (6), Richmond (77), Loyola University Maryland (93), and Washington and Lee University (94). The list calculates total cost as Tution + Room and Board, but does not include books or fees.

Don’t have a heart attack, applicants; many of these institutions offer pretty generous financial aid packages.  These are still some pretty steep price tags; even the institution at the bottom of the list, Northeastern University, tops $46,000!

Did I miss any other local high-dollar institutions?

Inner-City Education Success Profiled In The Providence Effect

The Providence Effect opens in select theatres today

The Providence Effect opens in select theatres today

As September comes to an end and children around that nation go back to school, DC’s education challenges still remain in the forefront. The efforts to improve DC’s school system still remains in the spotlight with Sunday’s Washington Post profile on DC Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee. With cities all over the country working to improve their public school systems, there is an interesting story in Chicago of a school that boasts a 100% college placement record. An amazing feat in a country where only a third of high school graduates go on to college. This school, Providence St. Mel, is the subject of The Providence Effect, a documentary opening in theatres around the DC area today.

The story of the school starts with founder Paul J. Adams III, an African-American man with activist roots in the 1960’s civil rights movement. After moving to Chicago’s troubled West Side he got a job at the Providence St. Mel as a guidance councilor. When the school was in danger of closing its doors, Adams raised the funds to purchase the school from the Sisters of Providence and set about a new goal: to turn Providence St. Mel into a first rank college prep school. However the story isn’t really about Paul Adams, but the education model he’s created to foster success from K-12.

The film opens with the graduation of the class of 2007 where students were not only called by name, but also by their college and major they would attend in the fall. The secret to their success is no secret in the film, Providence St. Mel believes in a strong sense of discipline and vision. In the morning every student recites the school mission statement and the teachers are held to the same high standard as the students. I was surprised to see Principal Jeanette DiBella work not behind a desk shuffling papers, but going from class to class observing teachers and students. In one scene a student is discovered not working on an assignment and both the student and teacher were called out. As DiBella says in the film she considers herself the instructional leader of the school. On the school’s website she is described as chief education officer.

However the model of Providence St. Mel appears to be paying off. The school’s success is currently trying to be replicated in the Chicago Public School system with a spin-off charter school that is also profiled in the film. Graduates go on to attend prestigious colleges and universities and has produced success for its alumni, which includes White House aide Gregory Canty.

The Providence Effect offers a look at a successful education model that left me wondering if something like that could be the answer for DC’s education crisis.

The Providence Effect opens in Washington, DC today at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, AMC Magic Johnson Theater in Largo, MD and AMC Shirlington Theater in Alexandria, VA.

Going Back To School: Obama To Speak At Wakefield High Today

President Barack Obama gestures as he addresses union workers and their families at the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Coney Island in Cincinnati, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama at the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Coney Island in Cincinnati, Monday (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Fresh from his Labor Day speech with the AFL-CIO (which I think is a very fitting event for Labor Day), President Obama will be in Arlington, Virginia today to talk to the children at Wakefield High School. After talking with the kids he’ll broadcast a nation-wide speech from the school around lunch-time. While the Principal at Wakefield High is excited to have The President in the school (“The building looks great and the auditorium has been transformed to suit a Presidential speech”), the kids might be a little disappointed to hear the lunch menu will be cold lunch in brown bags due to the speech. Also lunch is going to have to wait til after the speech- so kids eat a good breakfast before you come to school (remember breakfast is the most important meal of the day!) Oh well I’d put up with PB&J if it meant being able to see The President.

According to the released prepared remarks, Obama plans to say things like, “Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today?” and, “I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.” He’s also expected to say more inspirational things like, “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”

But seriously guys, Obama’s right- wash your hands.

Overall it looks like the remarks are pretty devoid of the rhetoric that would make some concerned parents pull kids from school. I side with the NY Daily News, Barack Obama is our President and he wants to inspire and impart wisdom to our children- like any good President should.

One last note, if you live or work in Arlington- be aware that the speech is going to cause some road closures today.

UPDATE: Looks like the newspapers weren’t the only ones with something to say about keeping kids from school so they can’t hear Obama, Jordan Peele (formally of MadTV) made a funny Obama reaction to all the talk on the issue.

But for those that want to see the real video you can find it below:


DC Science Fair – Wow!


The fair was (appropriately) held on Pi day. Pixprops to pauladamsmith on Flickr.

Enrollment in the DC public school system may be down, but participation at the 63rd Annual DC Mathematics, Science, and Technology Fair was clearly up.  As I said last month, I’ve been going to this fair for more than 10 years, and I found this year to be one of the best (if not the best) turnouts I’ve seen.  

The staff was great, getting the projects in the right slots and coordinating the judges.  Even the food was tasty!  The kids were enthusiastic and many were well-versed on some sophisticated topics. Several presented their projects in more than one language, which really impressed me.  I was particularly pleased to see the parents taking an interest in the fair and their kids.  Okay, they did need to get off the floor so the judges could, you know, talk to their kids, but we’ll take interest over obedience any day.

Kudos to the folks from WRAIR who organized it all, the folks from McKinley Tech (which looked great), and especially all the judges who took time to come talk to our best and brightest.  Oh, and check out this bit from the Post for some great pictures!

Making Science Fair

Props to DrBacchus on flickr

Props to DrBacchus on flickr

Do you remember your first science fair project?   All that research in the library, carefully printing your experimental procedure, plotting your results, and the nail-biting presentation for the judges — it’s all coming back, isn’t it?   Well, thousands of students are going through that same thing right now in preparation for the 2009 District of Columbia Mathematics, Science & Technology (DC MST) Fair on Saturday, March 14 at the McKinley Technology High School from 8:30 until noon.

One piece of this is still needed, and that’s judges.  For the senior projects that means very knowledgeable folks; trust me, these kids are sharp!  For the junior projects, more a more general background is needed.  And really, it’s not all robots!  Expertise is needed in animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science. earth and planetary science, engineering, environmental sciences, mathematical sciences, medicine and health sciences, microbiology, physics and astronomy, and plant sciences. The two top winners here will go on to compete with students from all over the world at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

To be honest, the DC fair has been pretty dismal in the past, owing primarily to a lack of staff support.  I’ve judged science fairs across the region for several years and I can tell you that the DC fair has come a long way.  It was still worth going to even when you were lucky to get a printed list of projects, let alone the catered breakfast and lunch, packet and clipboard, and staff support that’s provided today (by the very generous and competent Walter Reed Army Institute of Research).  The reason it’s worth it is simple: the kids.  These are the ones who have the drive to make a career in science and technology and a difference in the world.  Many have had little or no exposure to the S&T community, so the 5 or 10 minutes you spend with them is priceless.

The deadline to register in DC is March 2, 2009.  See you there?

And on the theme of fairness, here are links to other 2009 area fairs and the hours they are open for judging: 

Northern Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Wakefield High School, Saturday, March 7th, 9:30 AM until 1:00 PM

Montgomery Area Science Fair at the Reckord Armory Building at the University of Maryland, Saturday, March 21, 8AM until 5:30 PM

Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Robinson Secondary School, Saturday, March 28th, 7:30 AM until noon

Prince George’s Area Science Fair at the Howard B. Owens Science Center at the PG Community College, Saturday, March 28th, 7:45AM until 1:00PM.

Rhee To Discuss Student Disciplinary Policy With Public

Michelle Rhee by Flickr user angela n.

"Michelle Rhee" by Flickr user angela n. via Creative Commons

Michelle Rhee has turned heads since becoming Chancellor of Schools in DC. Her unorthodox policies such as weakening tenure power, firing hundreds in the public school system, evaluating teachers in person, and paying students for good grades have been featured in Time Magazine and here on Metblogs. Rhee is now rolling out her new student disciplinary policies, geared towards keeping children in school and instructing constructively through appropriate consequence. She is holding three public forums to discuss these new policies.

Forums (via NBC DC)

So far I’m a believer in Michelle Rhee. The problems in DC are drastic, and drastic problems call for drastic measures. She has a forceful personality; she prioritizes on the spot and makes difficult decisions that ruffle a lot of feathers. Since I have not experienced Rhee in person yet, I will attend one of these forums, either on January 13th or 28th. The changes that are happening in the DC school system will have long term impacts on the local culture. Everyone in the DC area should be a part of these changes.

Take a look at this video at If you have time read the article too. Enjoy this quote from the article, courtesy of Time Magazine.

“We’re in Washington, D.C., in the nation’s capital, and yet the children of this city receive an education that every single citizen in this country should be embarrassed by.” -Michelle Rhee

GW To Be Only University In Inaugural Parade


The George Washington University will be riding a float built by students in the Inaugural Parade for the first time since 1949, when they participated in Harry Truman’s Inaugural festivities. The float is designed to encompass GW’s various schools and colleges. Among the attractions on the float are a twelve foot inflatable globe that will be rotating six feet above the Elliot School of International Affairs section, a live stock ticker in the School of Business Section, students building a mini-Baja automobile in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences section, and live filming of the crowd on to an LCD monitor in the School of Media and Public Affairs section.

All in all, a group of 40+ students and administrators will be riding the float, joined by family members of the alumni who rode the GW float sixty years ago. The idea of the float is not only to represent The George Washington University, which is central to the political scene, but to represent higher education as a whole; GW is the only university in the country that will build and ride a float in the parade.

The GW application to the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Festivities was supplemented by enthusiastic letters of support from alumns Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Robert Wechsler. “The application process could not have gone more smoothly,” according to GW Student Body President Vishal A. Aswani. “The upcoming Inauguration will be a momentous national occasion, and students here are thrilled that The George Washington University will play such a central role in the festivities.”

Don’t Drive Drunk

Don’t drink and drive also please wear your seat belt.

December is the most dangerous month when most of people get killed or life time injured by accidents.
I do not care where ever you go, when ever you go, we all know time location and our work all is important but think.
Is your life is not important ???
Your children are also important…
When you are at the driving seat, you are responsible of all people who are sitting with you, so tell them WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT OR GET OFF FROM THE CAR !!!!
Must View:
If I can wear it than why cant you ?
Seat Belt Picture by WK

Seat Belt Picture by WK

Lose Child in the car, this could be her last trip, she was making face when I took her picture, so cute to lose…

Lose Child - Picture by WK

Lose Child - Picture by WK

Can you feal the pain ?
Injured in Car Accident - Picture from Flickr

Injured in Car Accident - Picture from Flickr

Drive Slow in Winter.
Picture from Flickr

Picture from Flickr

This could be your future house for the life time, so the choise is yours, do you want to wear the seatbelt and drive safe or this bed is waiting for you.

Picture from Flickr

Picture from Flickr

GWU Knocked Out of First

The Old Little George

The Old Little George

…on the list of “Most Expensive Colleges” for 2008-2009, that is.  According to, GWU is second on their list of schools with the “Highest Total Cost”, which combines tuition, room, & board.  They’ve got a separate list for “Highest Tuition”, where GW has dropped all the way to #6.

Don’t despair, DC:  you’ve still got two schools in the top ten, total cost-wise:  GW and Georgetown are both up there (#2 and #4, respectively).   There’s not as much overlap among the two lists as I would have expected; for instance Georgetown doesn’t make the top 25 for highest tuition, but is #4 in total cost?!  The poisonous food can’t be that expensive, can it?

Myself, I graduated from a public university in Virginia (where we watch a different set of rankings) *mumble-cough* years ago.   We gamed the system, my parents and I — they were divorced so I was able to benefit from out-of-state admission, then in-state tuition.  Whoo!  Even so, my parents practically killed themselves paying for it (recession was in the air then, too) so that I wouldn’t start my working life saddled with debt.  I look around at friends still paying theirs off and give thanks on a regular basis.

I can’t imagine what today’s students and parents must think, looking at figures like this. Not too many years ago, these sorts of debt burdens were for med school or law school, not undergrad.   Today’s credit situation can’t be helping, either.

Of course, there’s always hope for those GW alumni who might have very young children now:  Back when I was in high school, the then-most expensive (Bard College) is now down at #25 on the list!

SOUND-OFF: Paying DC Middle-Schoolers for Good Grades

SOUND-OFF presents a current controversy in the news, and invites you to speak your mind.

DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

DC is one of three cities that participates in Harvard University’s experimental system called Capital Gains– the others are New York and Chicago. The controversial program allows about 3,000 DC middle school students collect up to $200 per month for good behavior, attendance, completing homework, and achieving good grades. Harvard and the DC taxpayers split the bill- $1.35 million each.

The goal of the program is to reverse the current trend in DC education- 8% of students pass math and only 12% are proficient in English. We’ll see what the results are. The first round of checks, totaling $137,813 and averaging about $43 per student, went out this week.


  • Is it right to bribe kids to do the right thing? DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee views it as “positive incentive.” She adds that there are “incentives to do all the wrong things out on the street, and we believe that having positive incentives for doing the right thing is a good counter balance to that.” Is that a valid point?
  • Is it right to isolate cities like DC for programs like this? Roland Fryer of Harvard compares the incentive based program to the idea of rich families giving their children “shiny red cars at graduation.” DC is an impoverished city in many areas, but it is one of hundreds if not thousands of towns and cities that are suffering academically. Is it okay for DC to use federal funding paid by these other towns and cities on a program like this?
  • Should the spending of the money be monitored? It is wonderful that accounts are being created at SunTrust Bank for the students in the program, and it is even better that the bank is providing free money-management training, but at the end of the day, these middle school students have cash to spend. Isn’t there a risk of some students using the money to “do all the wrong things out on the street?” Would a VISA system with statement oversight work better?


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