from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Back to School, So Soon 

The Outlook Section of the Sunday Washington Post has a page called "Close To Home" on its back, with pieces on the local community.  The title of this diary is the same as that of this week's section, and contains a subtitle which says

We asked teachers, students, and education officials to tell us what they hope the new academic year will bring.
  You will see a variety of views if you read the piece at this link.

The submissions are from Martina Boone, chairman ofthe Prince William County parents' executive committee, two local superintendents, Jerry Weast of Montgomery County and Jack Dale of Fairfax County, US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Emly lawson who runs a public charter middle school in DC, and a student named Betty Lao at the nationally known Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.   Regular readers of this site may recognize the name of the one teacher who participate, Kenneth J. Bernstein of Arlington Virginia.   If you don't, that's me.

As might be expected, Secretary Spellings says that NCLB is working.  Jack Dale of Fairfax recognizes that schools have a purpose beyond test scores:  

The goals also emphasize personal character and community responsibility. Honesty and integrity, respect for others, conflict-resolution skills, lifelong learning, and identification of personal goals -- along with practical life skills such as critical thinking, positive work habits and financial competence -- will be integrated into our young people's education.

The entire piece is worth reading.   Regular readers might be surprised by who I offered.  I should note that I was solicited to contribute to this page, perhaps because Jay Mathews, principal education writer for the paper often quotes me.  The article already had submissions from the superintendents of two of the three largest districts in the area (Fairfax and Montgomery) and I teach in the third (Prince George's County).  Our district has had its share of recent turmoil.  I decided to respond on an understated basis.  I have concerns about the school board that will be elected this Fall, since no one can tell who will be on it, or how it will operate.  If necessary, I will address that later.

In the meantime, here is what I wrote:

Tomorrow I will begin my 11th year teaching in Prince George's County public schools and my eighth at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. I look forward to a year that is full of change, even if not all of it has been determined. In general, I am optimistic.

Prince George's schools chief John E. Deasy is the fourth permanent head of the system I've worked for. I was delighted to see that he chose to come on board before the last school year ended and got to know his new responsibilities in a way that would not have been possible had he waited until July 1 to report.

This fall county residents will vote for an elected school board to replace the one imposed by the state after the conflict and dysfunction between the last elected board and the superintendent at the time. I am hopeful that the new board will equal the quality and dedication of the current appointed board members, two of whom I was fortunate to know as committed parents of my students.

As we face state high school assessments counting toward graduation for this year's sophomores, the County Council has taken the initiative of establishing a blue-ribbon panel to ensure that any issues of concern about our students are addressed well before graduation in 2009. Also, our new teacher contract has been negotiated in a timely fashion; it contains substantial pay increases and went into effect on time.

In previous years, any of these issues could have been a distraction entering a new school year; instead, I return to teaching able to focus on my students. I am honored to teach at Eleanor Roosevelt and look forward to learning with my students.

-- Kenneth J. Bernstein



And yes, my email is in the paper.  It has been on occasion before when I have have been published on educational issue (only the woman from Prince William County and I offered our emails), and has not previously been a problem.   We'll see if it is this time.  

Anyhow, consider this diary a bit of a "brag"-  I was honored to be asked to participate, although I am far more honored by the opportunity to teach at the school where I work, and to share part of the lives of the 150+ teenagers who pass through my door each year.

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