Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria


How are the New Elementary Progress Reports Different from the Old Report Cards?

The most obvious difference that you’ll see is that students in grades 3 through 5 will no longer receive “A” through “F” letter grades and younger children will no longer have the excellent/good/satisfactory/unsatisfactory scale. Instead, they will earn a score from 1 to 4 that indicates the progress that they have made during that quarter toward meeting certain benchmarks based on their individual instructional level—in other words, a score based […]

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Who Are Our ACPS Students?

Most Alexandrians are aware in a general way that our student population is diverse, but what does that mean exactly? There are about 13,500 students currently enrolled in ACPS (the precise number will be available in early October). Our students come from 128 countries of birth and speak 80 different languages.  My daughters have classmates from all corners of the world including Pakistan, Morocco, Honduras, and Somalia. One of their […]

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Which School Calendar is Correct? (And Other Useful Stuff)

Unfortunately, the nice shiny full-color calendar that came in the welcome packets contains several mistakes, including these omissions for dates that are coming up this fall: Monday, October 14, Columbus Day, is a student holiday/professional day for traditional calendar schools Tuesday, November 5, Election Day, is a delayed opening The ACPS Communications office is working on a flyer to go home that indicates the additional days off and a few […]

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What’s Happening with Middle-School Honors Language Arts?

In recent years, middle-school parents have voiced dissatisfaction with the honors language arts classes in our middle schools. The complaint, in a nutshell: not enough writing and not enough challenging reading outside of class. “The people spoke and we listened,” wrote GWMS 1 language arts department chair Claire Given in an email to me last week. On Thursday, August 29, all ACPS middle-school language arts teachers attended a day-long workshop […]

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Why was Mort Sherman Let Go?

This is the question that I’ve been getting from a lot of puzzled friends and neighbors since Dr. Sherman announced that he was resigning as superintendent. Yes, he technically resigned, but let’s be honest: He didn’t wish to leave Alexandria, because he didn’t believe that his work was done. After five years, the reforms that he implemented and the management systems that he put into place to turn around a […]

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Will the New T.C. Tennis Courts Be Ready for the Spring Season?

Based on the latest information from the ACPS facilities department at last week’s school board meeting, don’t expect the new tennis courts to be ready for opening day in 2014.  However, if winter weather cooperates, the T.C. Titans may have a true home court advantage sometime before the tennis season concludes. (The T.C. tennis team currently plays its home matches on courts in Fairfax County that are rented by ACPS.) […]

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Which Governor Were We Meeting?

Last week Governor McDonnell was in town to talk about struggling schools at a roundtable discussion in the Rotunda Room at T. C. Williams High School.  It was nice of him to stop by and reminisce about his football career at Bishop Ireton and his brief stint as a young Alexandria city employee. But, as far as education policy is concerned, let’s be honest, little meaningful discussion can take place […]

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Why Does Alexandria Love to Hate Its Schools?

Over the past ten years, as a parent of two children enrolled in Alexandria City public schools, I’ve been frustrated and saddened by the way in which denigrating our schools—and even our students—has become one of our city’s favorite pastimes. A year or so ago I heard T.C. Williams High School principal Suzanne Maxey tell a group of parents how surprised she was at how little support the community showed […]

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