College Competition & Ninth Grade

R.C. Barajas:

Our son is poised on the knife’s edge between middle and high school, and we have arrived — as if by time machine, it seems — at the moment when we must decide where he will spend his last four years of mandatory education.
We are welcomed, and given an overview from several educators, including Arlington Superintendent Robert Smith, and about half an hour later parents splinter off to presentations in various rooms around the school. Represented here are the four Arlington high schools: Washington-Lee, which has the International Baccalaureate option; high-achieving Yorktown; H-B Woodlawn, with its hugely popular alternative approach; and Wakefield, which is open to all Gunston Middle students who want to continue in Spanish immersion. Each of these schools appeals to us in some way, so I want to get information on all of them. Topping the list at the moment, though, is the continuation of Spanish immersion, so I follow our close-knit group of parents to where Wakefield is presenting.
Wakefield’s principal, Doris Jackson, is very charismatic. She’s been with Arlington Public Schools for 15 years — this is her fifth as Wakefield principal, and the staff members standing behind her this evening in Room 110 smile at us with pleasant zealotry. Jackson says the school believes fervently that the makeup of Advanced Placement classes should mirror the racial, ethnic and economic makeup of the general student body. To this end, in the spring of 2004, Wakefield launched an effort to support any and all students who want to take AP classes: a preparatory program called AP Bridge, which is designed to help entering students overcome their hormone-induced brain scramble by strengthening their time management and study skills. Visualizing Sebastian’s junk heap of a desktop, I scratch a large “!” in my notes.