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Class Struggle: December 12, 2010 - December 18, 2010

A plea for peace among petulant pundits

As the football season for my Redskins falls apart, I have become addicted to the shouting of sports talk radio. Great failures inspire irresistible passion and confrontation. The national debate over how to fix our failing schools attracts me for the same reason. But in my saner moments I wish we were more considerate of those with whom we disagree.

By Jay Mathews  | December 17, 2010; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (64)
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  Diane Ravitch, KIPP, The Life and Death of the Great American School System, Whitney Tilson, education policy pundits distort each other's cases, how to help schools by being fair in the debate  
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Schools miscommunicating with parents

A seventh-grader at River Bend Middle School in Loudoun County is getting little homework. Under a new system called standard-based grading, teachers are supposed to use quick quizzes in class, not overnight assignments, to assess how students are doing. It is fairer and more dependable, many experts say, but it is also preventing the student’s mother from helping her child learn.

By Jay Mathews  | December 16, 2010; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  Loudoun County, River Bend Middle School, also increase in tests and quizzes is a strain, new system has little homework so parent can't help child progress, parent-school miscommunication, principal declines to help parent with teachers because he does not want them to stigmatize her child, standard-based grading  
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Unbelievable urban school safety statistics

There is something very odd in the otherwise fine story by my colleague Bill Turque about security deteriorating at Dunbar High School in D.C. In a chart comparing the number of last summer and fall incidents in nine regular enrollment D.C. high schools, Dunbar had the most, 46. But way down at the bottom of the list, with only 2 incidents during that period this year and 6 incidents in summer and fall 2009, was Spingarn High School. Readers familiar with Spingarn were scratching their heads when they saw those numbers in my newspaper. page A16.

By Jay Mathews  | December 15, 2010; 11:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Dunbar High School, Henderson fired Dunbar principal for same reasons, Kaya Henderson, Michelle Rhee fired Spingarn principal, but also show Spingarn High school the best despite many complaints, but data show Spingarn much safer, long history of bad data on school crime, security incident reports show Dunbar worst in D.C.  
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Can city schools compete with the suburbs?

I have an Oct. 18 email from Jonathan Shea, an Advanced Placement World History teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, a public school in D.C. It raises an interesting question. Is it possible to establish academic rivalries between high schools, as we now have athletic rivalries? Can an urban school with a large portion of low-income students dare challenge an affluent suburban school in the level and sophistication of its teaching and learning?

By Jay Mathews  | December 15, 2010; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Jonathan Shea, Westfield High School Fairfax County, Wilson High School D.C., urban school teacher suggests his World History course is better than in very large and competitive suburban school  
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When popularity trumps learning in urban schools

Dunbar High School Principal Stephen Jackson was fired at the end of last school year by the private management group in charge of the school, but put back in the job last week by interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson at the urging of parents, community leaders and teachers. Jackson seemed an unusually lively and energetic educator when I met him at the long-troubled Northwest Washington school a year ago. He may be the person who can finally straighten Dunbar out. But the odds are against him.

By Jay Mathews  | December 12, 2010; 8:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags:  Dunbar High School, Friends of Bedford, Stephen Jackson, but his reinstallment also sends the message that being popular is more important than helping learning, new Dunbar principal has chance to save school  
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