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Good news from "New Ballou"

The year-end news hasn't been the best for Ballou Senior High School. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced this week that it is one of six DCPS schools where teachers will be required to reapply for their jobs because of consistently poor academic performance. The school was also plagued earlier this year with a series of small fires and false alarms that frequently disrupted classes.

That's why it was encouraging to read about the 21 Ballou seniors who are the first recipients of scholarships from the Passport to Success program, funded by a $600,000 gift from an anonymous donor to Friends of Ballou.

Dennis O. Garris, managing partner of Alston & Bird's Washington office and a Friends of Ballou board member, said in a statement that he hoped the awards would help reinforce the identity of what he called the "New Ballou."

"We want to show what hard-working, dedicated young people can achieve by overcoming stereotypes, aiming high for success, and reaching their greatest goals," said Garris, who hosted the recipients at a reception Thursday evening at Alston & Bird.

In brief statements, the winners of the $5,000 awards spoke of their aspirations. J.C. Morrow, who compiled a 3.96 GPA and is headed to Penn State, wants to open his own engineering firm. Johnny Boykin (3.23) who will attend Virginia State, plans "to be the next Tyler Perry." Royelle Jones (3.58) a senior class first vice-president who will also attend Penn State, said that there has been a change in the school's culture.

"I represent the New Ballou because I have the courage to not only be proud of being smart but also taking leadership to show others it's okay to have a brain," she said. "Years ago, people were scared to walk on stage to get $100 for making honor roll. Now, people aren't only excited about earning honor roll grades but are ecstatic about going on stage to get their Target gift cards every time they get honor roll."


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By Bill Turque  |  June 18, 2010; 12:21 PM ET
 
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Comments

Congratulations students on a job well done and thank-you to the Friends of Ballou!

I am proud and happy to readof the Ballou students who fought against the odds and kept studying.

College might seem different to you and there may be times when you want to quit, but don't give up! You can do it!! You know life is not always easy. Keep your minds on your goals. I am rooting for you.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 18, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

GREAT JOB BALLOU STUDENTS!!

All teachers and parents should be held accountable for students' grades and progress.

I LOVE GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!

Posted by: DirtyFoote | June 18, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I bet the more experienced and thus more expensive teachers will not be rehired.

Posted by: aby1 | June 18, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@aby1 That would be a mistake. I hope that is not what is going on.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 18, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Note the reference to a change in the school's "culture."

The culture meme is spreading and I am keeping track.

Posted by: efavorite | June 18, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

How about the "old Ballou" from the 80s that sent kids off to Hampton, Morehouse, Howard, North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M and more schools in droves!!!!

How about the math and science program that produced professionals in a variety of fields. I know lawyers, engineers, accountants/CPAs, police officers, firemen, successful business owners, and more from the "old" Ballou!!!

Posted by: oknow1 | June 18, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Right on the money Oknow! Memory slips of convenience. I also think we see the trend, contract ratified, but the small print says: You may never see the money, accomplished by restructuring, excessing and less buying power at the local school level.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 18, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Finally, some young people who aspire to do something in spite of their overwhelming odds. Congratulations!! Keep up the good work and keep striving!!

Posted by: whatsreallygoingon | June 18, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Finally, some young people who aspire to do something in spite of their overwhelming odds. Congratulations!! Keep up the good work and keep striving!!

Posted by: whatsreallygoingon | June 18, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Right on the money Oknow! Memory slips of convenience. I also think we see the trend, contract ratified, but the small print says: You may never see the money, accomplished by restructuring, excessing and less buying power at the local school level.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 18, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

-------------------------------------
Right on candycane1. Everyone seems to forget that we had the #1 school system in the country for years before Vince Gray gave control to the Fenty/Rhee team. Oh, wait, maybe I don't have that quite right...

Posted by: streff | June 18, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

The biggest obstacle DC kids face, and it is not a small one, is the lack of good parenting. I grew up poor, but my mother loved me and instilled in me a sense of respect for myself and others. She had the audacity to require me to go to college even though she knew she would not be able to contribute financially.

After teaching in se dc schools, I would say a significant share of dc kids are raising themselves. I don't think the dc middle class understands how sick the culture is east of the river. The dads are gone, the moms are unemployed, and the kids are almost always less than 18 years younger than their parents. Moms have expensive cell phones and acrylic nails, kids have Xbox and PSPs, but parents will tell you, with a straight face (when they actually show up for conferences, which is rare), that they cannot afford to buy pencils.

Of course, the biggest problem is not material. Kids are raised without ANY moral compass. I mean nothing. Kids learn to find ways to get away with things, rather than ways to avoid doing the wrong thing.

I applaud schools like KIPP and SEED that have discovered that the ONLY way to help urban kids is to keep them away from their parents as much as possible. Talk to any KIPP teacher, and you will realize that KIPP schools are actually raising children! Students learn lessons like "Word Hard. Be Nice." THESE ARE NOT THINGS THEY WOULD EVER LEARN AT HOME.

Posted by: alertcitizen1 | June 19, 2010 6:20 AM | Report abuse

@Streff:
You don't have it quite right. I was agreeing with Oknow1 because there was a very strong math/science program as well as a technology program that DCPS was quite proud of. It was quite successful. It's OK that you don't know about that. there are those of us who do.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 19, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Let's give credit where credit is due: thanks, Michelle Rhee!

She installed the principal that has led the culture shift at Ballou - and Ballou isn't the only school where this is happening.

Take note, Rhee critics.

Posted by: RL67 | June 19, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

RL67,

If Rhee is doing such a good job at Ballou, why does it need to be restructured next year? She has been in power three years now???

The scholarships that the 21 seniors received are inspiring but let us keep in mind that last year there was also a small minority students who overcame huge challenges at Ballou. And this year there are students in schools all across the city who are achieving their full potential despite of...

There are pockets of excellence in all schools despite what Rhee and those who despise public school teachers like to claim.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | June 19, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

streff - I assume you are some transplant that will scream I've lived in DC for 10-20 years now. nevertheless, you did not grow up here. You think of Rhee as a savior, but the reality is DCPS provided a good educational opportunities in the past. In my day many kids went to Ballou for their programs. Quite frankly everyone i know that went to Ballou is doing well. Ballou had it's challenges then, but it's students went on to do good things. Somewhere along the way, "new" educational thoughts came along and destroyed good programs in the name of what? (we can talk about the vocational programs at Phelps and Chamberlain too.)

So many of you tout Rhee but at the same time we congratulate these kids the principal is being removed from Ballou because the school lacking adequate progress. So what's is the real story of Ballou? Please give us critics some data to shut us up.

Posted by: oknow1 | June 20, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

alertcitizen1,

I believe the students at Kipp have more involved parents. I am guessing that Kipp has behavioral classes to help the students, but the parents of Kipp students are raising their children themselves.

Posted by: aby1 | June 21, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

oknow1, transplants are much better DC residents across the board than those who thought Barry's criminality was "normal." I started working in DC in 1985, spending days and evenings in-town, and moved across the border in 1995. If that makes me a newcomer in your eyes then you're off your rocker.

and letsbereal2, you post nothing but lies. Anyone who disagrees with your myopic world view "hates public school teachers." Right, let me tell that to my wife and my mother, both former public school teachers! [rolls eyes]

Posted by: bbcrock | June 21, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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