Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

A Parent Responds to Alexandria Gazette Article Concerning the New T.C. Principal

Regular readers of the Port City Notebook know that I have been frustrated for many years by the coverage of our public schools in the local news media and the extent to which it often falls short of the standards of responsible journalism. A recent article in the Alexandria Gazette, Getting To Know T.C. Williams High School’s New Principal, is a perfect example. Before Dr. Jesse Dingle has even landed […]

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What I’m Reading: The Smartest Kids in the World (and How They Got That Way)

In The Smartest Kids in the World (Simon & Schuster, 2013), Time magazine writer Amanda Ripley sets out to answer a puzzling question: How are a few countries able to educate all of their kids to succeed at high levels, while the U.S., which spends more per student than most countries, cannot? Ripley uses the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and […]

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Important SOL News for Elementary and Middle-School Parents

A new Virginia Board of Education policy requires schools to obtain parental permission in advance in order to allow students to retake an SOL before the end of the school year. In the past, students in courses required for graduation (other than writing) whose SOL scores were just shy of the 400 needed to pass were offered expedited retakes about three weeks after the initial exam. To qualify for the […]

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Budget Update and Other News You Can Use

The Alexandria city manager’s budget recommends spending roughly $3 million less for both the operating and capital improvement program budgets than ACPS requested. And the option of raising property taxes next year has been taken off of the table irrevocably. That means the city council is faced with an unenviable task: cut from other areas of the city budget to close the schools gap, or leave the schools with less […]

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An ACPS Parent’s Guide to the 2016 City Budget

In a nutshell, the city’s budget outlook is grim. While residential property values have been rising and will contribute additional revenue to the city, commercial tax revenue has been anemic. The economic recovery that much of the rest of the country is enjoying has not yet benefited Alexandria. The city council has raised property taxes for two years in a row to fund important and much-needed spending and capital improvements, […]

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News You Can Use

T.C. Principal Survey Still Open The deadline for participating in an online survey about the characteristics that you believe are most important for the next principal of T.C. Williams High School has been extended to March 6. Ironically, the survey appears to be blocked on the students’ Amplify tablets so they may have to participate on a different device.   Coming Up There are two programs offered this month by […]

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Even More Random Things to Know about the Program of Studies

Starting this month, middle- and high-school students will be making their course selections for the coming school year. The 2015-2016 Program of Studies is a good place to begin. A year ago, Port City Notebook covered topics concerning course selection for rising ninth-grade students and outlined some differences between Dual Enrollment (DE) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Much of that advice is still relevant. What follows is some new and […]

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Turning the Page on School Calendars

A couple of items to note about the recently-approved 2015-2016 ACPS traditional academic calendar and the modified calendar for Samuel Tucker Elementary: All schools will be closed for students on Election Day, November 3, a change from past practice. Because city-wide elections will be held that day, voter turn-out is expected to be slightly higher than some years, even though not as high as for a Presidential election. And though […]

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Five Favorite Books of 2014

These five weren’t all published in 2014, but they are ones that I most enjoyed reading during the past year. Here they are, in alphabetical order: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (fiction) Named to the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014, this novel weaves together the stories of Werner, a young German orphan whose knack for putting radios together attracts Nazi recruiters, […]

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How are SOL tests changing?

By my rough calculation, my daughters, who are currently juniors at T.C., will have taken around 45 high-stakes exams—Standards of Learning (SOLs), Advanced Placement (AP) exams, SAT and ACT college entrance exams, and SAT II subject tests—by the time they leave Alexandria City Public Schools. Throw in a couple of PSATs and an SAT/ACT practice combo test and the total is nearly 50. (By contrast, when I was their age, […]

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