It has been an exciting week here for those of us in Washington who are following the education scene.

John Dickert writes from Mount Vernon Farms, Virginia:

It has been an exciting week here for those of us in Washington who are following the education scene.
In one of the counties in Maryland adjacent to Washington, the county executive (in this case, an elected position) has taken over more control of the school system, after first trying to completely override the school board and the office of the school superintendent. Part of what drives this effort is that while that county’s academic scores are not high, its neighboring county to the west has the highest academic scores i the state of Maryland. The first linked article (released April 1st) will relate to that.
Then there was the test scoring scandal which broke in Atlanta. The next two articles (released April 4th) relate to that. The first was by Bill Gates. The second was printed next to it on the Op-ED pages of the Washington Post and relates to an educational incident in Wisconsin. I find that the ideas in the Bill Gates article will run into two roadblocks. The first is teat score envy, the concept that our district needs to keep up with the scores of those of our neighbors. The second is that in Education at the college (or university) level, success is measured by pushing the edge of the envelope in teaching methodology, in a field where success can not be measured until the suggestee is long graduated. When my children went through their pre-collegial schooling they were subjected to several new innovations in education, some of which worked and some of which were disasters. The creators of all these programs were rewarded before any of their programs were proven in the field.
The final attachment was released in our (Fairfax County VA) public library weekly newsletter. It is a recently developed program for aiding parents in assisting with their child’s homework. As it seems very involved, I can posit that only the most helicopterish of parents will be willing to use it.
As a window into my view of high school education when my oldest son entered high school back in 1996, Fairfax County Public Schools only required 3 years of social studies. Our high school offered a 4th year of the program, offered in the Sophomore year, the AP Modern European course. About 150 students would take the course each year offered in 5 periods by one teacher. It was highly sought after. In part due to this program our high school was one of the highest placing high schools on Jay Mathew’s early High School Challenge listings, back when it was only published by the Washington Post. At the time the school was offering only some 5 or 6 AP courses, 2 of which were electives. In the intervening years the AP Challenge Index has gone national, and the AP course offerings have grown geometrically, with the situation that for many courses the only effective college-prep version of a course is the AP course. Initially the AP program was promoted as a way to give high school students a means to have a taste of college. Many high school seniors now are driven to take 4 such courses. AND none of these courses in the social sciences or English, requires the creation of a researched paper. When my youngest child was in high school (she graduated in 2007) I served on a school education committee, and wrote locally about this issue. I never could convince anyone that high school was really about preparing our children for college, not directing them to take the maximum number of College like courses as possible.

Parents: A New Way To Help Your Kids with Their Homework

Library customers can now access a new resource to help with homework. To learn more about it, teachers and parents can sign up for a 30-minute demonstration on April 17. Online registration required: Wednesday, April 17 at 2 p.m.
This new online service by Literati includes a host of resources such as educational content for K-12 students and adults, informational videos and tutorials and interactive discovery tools. Literati Public has been specifically customized for Virginia libraries. Online tutoring help from certified teachers is offered through the “Homework Help” tab Monday through Thursday from
3 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. This service is offered to all students in Virginia (Grades 3-12) needing help in math, reading or writing. You can access this resource here. Select Fairfax County Public Library and Go; on the second screen enter your library card number.
There are multiple ways to access this new resource from the library website; here’s one:
Go to the library home page:;
Select Homework help under Library Services in the center column;
Select Find an Online Teacher to Help/Find Resources;
Then follow the steps above (select FCPL and Go/enter your card number).