Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Thirsty for Literature?

February 19, 2018

Middlesex Elementary School is again participating with students and families across Virginia in a statewide family reading event called Virginia Reads One Book during February of 2018.  With the active support of sponsors like the Washington Redskins Community Foundation, the Virginia Bankers Association Education Foundation, and the Virginia Council on Economic Education, thousands of Virginia students, families, and schools will read The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies and celebrate both family and financial literacy.

Can math provide a theme for a One School, One Book selection? You bet your calculator it can.

The Lemonade War is of course not just about math; it just isn’t afraid to use it.

Evan is a 4th grader in his last week of summer. Evan is mortified when he finds out his extremely intelligent younger sister Jessie is being moved up to 4th grade and will be in the same class!

Normally Evan and Jessie have a great relationship, but this new piece of information has Evan angrier than ever at his little sister.

Evan decides to spend his last week of summer working on a lemonade stand with his friend Scott, but refuses to let his sister Jessie help.

Evan and Jessie quickly find themselves in the middle of a Lemonade War to see who can make the most money, and this war has them both behaving badly! These siblings find themselves sabotaging batches of lemonade, hiding money and do anything they can to win. As Evan and Jessie duke it out over supplies and advertising and marketing techniques – they also have to use some math.  Jacqueline Davies includes math problems, charts and graphs, business plans, business terminology and definitions, using the sibling’s zesty competition to draw the reader in.

The Lemonade War is the thirst quencher of chapter books with a clever blend of humor and math fun which will help the reader understand the importance of math in everyday life.  What more could you ask for?

Resolutions Done Right

January 10, 2018

We made it. 2017 has come to an end. While we ponder what lies ahead, many of us are focused on improving something specific: ourselves. And that’s where the old New Year’s resolutions come in.

Resolutions can mark a time of renewal, re-commitment, and reflection. Most of the time, these are serious goals. More power to the people who come up with and stick to those New Year’s Resolutions. However, if you have trouble sticking to your resolutions and want something a little more on the easier side, some of these ideas might be for you. Come up with something original, simple or funny, and you’re more likely to stay on track.

  1. Keep Your Gas Tank Full: If you’re that person who’s always riding on almost-empty, make it your goal to actually fill up your tank for once.
  2. Learn Something New Every Day.  Strive to acquire a better understanding of the world and how it works. Fortunately, the internet makes it incredibly easy to learn new things. 
  3. Remove Clutter from Your Life. Every day get rid of 10 things you don’t need and declutter your life. Less is more.
  4. Use Your Phone Less: Self-explanatory. You don’t need to check your texts during the five-second walk from the store to your car.
  5. Buy Fewer Brand Names: This is, obviously, unavoidable, but some brands are overpriced just because they’re popular. Do your research.
  6. Finish a Tube of Chap-Stick: How many times have you lost a tube of chap-stick? Make it a goal to actually get through the whole thing before you drop it somewhere.
  7. Do One Thing Each Week that You Truly Love. Find a way to treat yourself on a small scale once a week to inspire and bring you joy.
  8. Give to Charity as Much as Possible. Helping those around you is truly rewarding.
  9. Write Stuff Down. Use a planner or a calendar. Type it out on your laptop or write it down on a piece of paper. If you see it, you will remember to do it (whatever “it” is). The key to success is organization.
  10.  Love Yourself. Start right now. Be yourself and enjoy it. And resolve to stop making unrealistic resolutions!

So here’s to sticking to our resolutions, and saying goodbye to 2017 in style…and of course, with a smile.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and hopeful year ahead.

Books: Food for the Brain

November 26, 2017

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we know parents are on the lookout for great educational gifts for their children.

To aid in your search for the perfect gift, MCPS has weighed in with their favorite book recommendations our children:

Elementary School

  1. Hero by Mike Lupica
  2. Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner
  3. The Babe & I by David A. Adler
  4. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  5. Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
  6. The Boxcar Children Bookshelf (The Boxcar Children Mysteries, Books 1-12) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  7. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush – by Tomie dePaola
  8. Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  9. The City of Ember (Books of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau
  10. All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  11. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  12. First Day in Grapes (Pura Belpre Honor Book) by L. King Perez
  13. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  14. Blueberries for Sal (Viking Kestrel picture books) by Robert McCloskey
  15. A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
  16. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
  17. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  18. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
  19. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Middle School

  1. Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  2. The Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  3. Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume
  4. Comeback by Dave Dravecky
  5. Lisa, Bright and Dark: A Novel by John Neufield
  6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  7. I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn
  8. The Beginning Place by Ursula K. Le Guin
  9. Hatchet: 20th Anniversary Edition by Gary Paulson
  10. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  11. Go Up For Glory by Bill Russell
  12. City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
  13. They All Laughed…From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives by Ira Flatow
  14. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie
  15. Summerland by Michael Chabon
  16. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
  17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

High School

  1. The Baron In The Trees by Italo Calvino
  2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  3. The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
  4. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  5. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  6. The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set by Suzanne Collins
  7. Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi
  8. Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  9. Room: A Novel by Emma Donaghue
  10. 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
  11. Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen
  12. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
  13. One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression by Lorena Hickok, Richard Lowitt, and Maurine H. Beasley
  14. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  15. Essays – First Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hoping your holiday season includes some great books!

Why School?

October 9, 2017

The other day, I heard an elementary student interrogate her mother with the same question asked of me for the past 12 years:  why do I have to go to school?

School. That glorious mix of social and educational experiences that happens 180 days a year for thirteen straight years. Sure there are holiday and summer breaks, and even those occasional professional development days when teachers show up but students don’t, but just think about it, for the most part, our entire childhood is spent within the concrete walls of some sort of educational institution.

Well if you have to be there, (and guess what? The US Government says you do!), let’s focus on the positive and make the most out of it!

Here are some really great reasons to get up and go to school every single weekday.


Let’s face it; school just isn’t the same for you or your friends when someone is absent.  Friends are there to walk the halls with you, tell you when your shoe is untied, keep you up-to-date on the latest and greatest school gossip, and basically help you get through the day. True friends are your most loyal fan club members.  They are there to support you when you try out for area band or take the field for your first big game. They listen to you go on and on about the joys of biology and help you make campaign signs when you run for class president. And when you’re home sick with the flu, good friends take notes for you so you don’t fall behind.  Best friends forever!

Do we have spirit? Let’s hope we do!

There is nothing like a school bursting with school spirit. Not only should you think your school is the best place on Earth, but you should want others to agree with you. Think about it? Why wouldn’t they?  Pep rallies, spirit days, school events, socials, get into it! Being part of all that excitement and pride is more than enough reason to show up.

The Perfect Attendance Certificate

For those ultra-competitive students, scoring the highly-coveted perfect attendance award is a tremendous honor. Being at school every day means fighting through the days when you have the blahs (and hopefully you’re not contagious!), the days when you have tests but didn’t study (let’s not make that a habit), and even the days when it’s pouring down raining and no one in their right mind would step outside.  Being in class every day says a lot about your (and your parent’s) commitment to education and your belief that showing up matters. Two thumbs up!

Life Prep

It might not seem like school is preparing you for life but it totally is. I agree, you may never need to know the exact calculation of pi (by the way…it’s 3.14159265…) or the names of all the planets (what the latest on Pluto?), or even that there are eight parts of speech (we all know those:  verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction and interjection), but school is teaching you to show up, work hard, and apply what you’ve learned. Those skills will serve you well no matter which path you choose after high school. Yep, those thirteen years of school are helping you evolve into an adult!

Fun, Fun & More Fun

I know you don’t want to, but go ahead and admit it, school can be fun:  learning new things, exploring fresh ideas, succeeding academically, excelling in extracurricular activities…fun, fun, fun and more fun. Face it, even eating school lunch with your friends is fun. We know that all schools are not created equal and for some, the buildings and equipment are less than stellar, but the quest for knowledge goes beyond what happens in the classroom. Students learn from their teachers, their classmates and the entire school staff. When it’s all said and done, you’ll graduate from high school with a lot of great memories of all the fun times you’ve had over the years.

School.  Get there, be there and stay there!

September is Attendance Awareness Month

August 31, 2017

School attendance is essential to academic success, but too often parents, students and sometimes teachers do not realize how quickly absences, excused as well as unexcused, can add up to academic trouble.  At the same time principals, division leaders, and community members often do not know if chronic absence is a significant problem in local schools.

Research shows that missing as little as two days every month, or ten percent of the school year is considered chronic absenteeism.  Missing school can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing courses and ultimately, teens dropping out of high school.

This September will mark the fifth annual Attendance Awareness Month campaign, an opportunity to rally our community, advocates, policymakers, volunteers, funders, and supporters around the importance of attendance and its role in academic achievement.  The campaign is spearheaded by Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance.

Check back with the MCPS Blog all this month for additional information about how attendance is linked with academic success.

Let’s get 2017-2018 off to a great start!

Hey, Show Some Respect!

June 8, 2017

Adults hear it all the time. We are out of touch. We don’t understand. So maybe that’s accurate, but that still doesn’t mean that we need to tolerate the rolling of the eyes, sighs of exasperation and that little irritating scoff that we frequently endure from the younger generation.

Hey, we’ve been through a lot & deserve a little respect!

Think about what we have had to deal with over the years:

1. The only way to have that new song before you bought the complete vinyl album or the “45” came out was to hover over the record button of the tape recorder indefinitely waiting to tape it off the radio. What’s a “45”? Well, ask anyone over 45 and they can tell you!

2. Anything you needed had to be purchased from an actual brick and mortar store. No Amazon, no 2-day delivery, no Google Play, no iTunes. Virtually everything was closed on Sunday so that everyone could spend quality time with the “fam”.

3. We didn’t have Wikipedia. We had 24 volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica. Do you know how tedious this was? (Full disclosure: it was kinda fun, too.)

4. We couldn’t just “change plans on the fly.” Either you got to the right place at the right time, or no one knew anything, and everything was ruined.

5. Meeting someone required some effort and courage, not just a social media app.

6. You actually got to watch movies in the theatre without knowing the spoilers in advance and weeks later, new movie goers still didn’t know the ending of the movie.

7. We didn’t have “on demand,” streaming video. Heck we didn’t even have RedBox. We had “driving to the video store and spending an hour looking at the dust jackets and picking out some video that might not even work.” What’s a dust jacket you ask? UGH…Let’s just move on…

8. We didn’t have video games with “immersive worlds,” we had one pixel at a time…think PONG.

9. We didn’t have Skype, we had calling cards.

10. Taking trips involved planning, a road atlas and the AM radio travel alerts. You didn’t have all this GPS stuff with second by second updates.

11. We couldn’t take a million digital photos and hope one came out well. Every shot was money out of your pocket.

12. Pretty much everyone could smoke anywhere anytime. In fact at many high schools, there was an actual smoke zone where students had free reign to “light up” as needed.

13. Privacy for phone calls was restricted to how far you could stretch out the curly cord, and there were pay phones on every corner.

14. The closest thing to health food was the tasteless rice cake!

15. We didn’t have Craigslist or LinkedIn or any other such wizardry. We had a newspaper, the classified section and a highlighter.

16. We didn’t have Instagram. Sharing your travel photos meant boring people to death with albums, scrapbooks or slides.

17. If we lost the Entertainment sections in the newspaper, everything on TV was a complete mystery, but actually that wasn’t quite as huge of a deal as you might think because there were only 3 channels to choose from!

18. But we did have this amazing thing called BOREDOM. Complete boredom was totally acceptable and in fact, it built character. You could relax, daydream and imagine what great inventions would be developed in the future…

So remember next time you want to lash out at someone of the mature variety. We really do deserve respect. We’ve earned it. We’ve clearly had to endure a lot!

SOL Review for You

May 16, 2017

Over the next two weeks, chances are if you have a student in 3rd-12th grade, they are probably going to be taking one or more of the Virginia Standard of Learning…aka, the dreaded SOLs.

For those of us familiar with the SOLs, it’s time for a refresher, and for those of us new to the SOL experience, below is important information for your perusing enjoyment.

The Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia Public Schools establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects. Student performance is graded on a scale of 0-600 with 400 representing the minimum level of acceptable proficiency and 500 representing advanced proficiency. On English reading and mathematics tests, the Board of Education has defined three levels of student achievement: basic, proficient, and advanced, with basic describing progress towards proficiency.

All items on SOL tests are reviewed by Virginia classroom teachers for accuracy and fairness and teachers also assist the state Board of Education in setting proficiency standards for the tests.

Today’s online SOL assessments challenge students to apply what they have learned in ways not possible with traditional multiple-choice tests. Reading, writing, mathematics, and science assessments include “technology enhanced” items that require students to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, much as they do in response to classroom assignments from teachers.

Students who take online grades 3-8 mathematics and grades 3-5 reading tests will be administered a computer adaptive version of the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.  A computer adaptive test or CAT is an assessment that is customized for every student based on how the student responds to the test questions.

Almost all SOL tests are now taken online. Online tests in science, mathematics, reading and writing include interactive non-multiple choice items that require students to apply what they have learned. Only students with a documented, disability-related need take pencil-and-paper tests. In addition, elementary and middle school students who fail SOL tests by narrow margins or because of extenuating circumstances now may be retested before the end of the year — provided that school divisions first secure parental permission. The retake policy does not apply to the Grade-8 Writing SOL test.

The Virginia Department of Education has been working to expand the types of devices approved for use in the administration of online SOL tests. By transitioning to a new version of test delivery software, TestNav 8, Virginia school divisions gain the flexibility of administering online SOL tests on a wider variety of devices, including touch-screen devices. The TestNav 8 software, via a custom application, allows tests to be administered securely on additional devices, while continuing to support the use of traditional Microsoft Windows-based and Mac OS-based workstations.

Taking the SOLs should not be a source of major stress and anxiety for your student. It should be an opportunity for the student to demonstrate his/her mastery of the material as established in the course curriculum.

Death of the Library

April 18, 2017

The cost of textbooks is rising, the print press is collapsing and the accessibility of digital resources is the perfect, cost-effective solution for financially challenged school systems.

Are the days of school libraries numbered?

Ever since the internet spread to what…a few million people?…there have been forecasts for the collapse of the print industry. The ease with which people can share media and information makes print media pretty much obsolete. Major book retailers which were once shopping mall staples are now struggling to survive. Can libraries be far behind?

School systems across the country are embracing the usefulness of digital media. The amazing intellectual advancements of the last decade would have been impossible without the expansion of digital media technology across the educational sector. As this trend continues, we could be looking at entirely digital libraries, but is this a good thing?

Textbooks are more expensive than ever. Digital materials offer a lower cost, and with open textbook initiatives, often free alternative. Finding information digitally is easier than finding it in a book, and it is instantly updatable, meaning it can be changed to react to new discoveries and convey new findings within seconds. It’s searchable, without the need to spend time manually hunting through books. It’s available to everyone with an internet connection, and it doesn’t require the storage space of physical books. Digital media is more convenient. It’s easier to carry a tablet than a bag full of books, and highlighting is as simple as touching a screen. It sounds like a no-brainer to me…say bye-bye to libraries…

But wait a minute…libraries are more than just rooms with books, they’re social hubs. They’re centers of partnership, sharing and debate. It is this collaboration, this exchange of ideas and opinions that fuels social, intellectual and scientific progress. Libraries are the places which advance societies, devise better world order and spark revolutions. It’s the nature of the place that’s important. People learn from each other. Removing the social component of learning is a detrimental break-down to growth and development, and we do not want that to occur.

So visit your school…or local library. Pick up a book, interact with a friend…before it’s too late.

Who You Gonna Call? Stress Busters!

March 27, 2017

Feeling stressed in today’s society is pretty much inevitable.

Young people should have everything to be happy about, right?  But the generation that one would think has the least responsibility, actually experiences the most stress.  In fact, studies show a whopping 65% of students feel unhealthy anxiety on a daily basis.

It’s no secret that being a teenager is hard and comes with its own set of difficulties. It’s also no secret that school and the pressure to succeed are becoming larger and larger percentages of these difficulties. While some stress may come from simply being a teenager and its inherent struggles, too much stress is unhealthy.

Stressed-out teenagers can show signs of insomnia, depression, altered eating habits, substance abuse, and other dangerous stress-related symptoms which begs the question:  Could today’s society be putting too much pressure on teens?

Yes, it’s important for parents to push their children to succeed, but it’s also important that the fun of simply being a child isn’t taken away.

Without smart habits for dealing with situations that could be stressful, life can be a whole lot more burdensome that it needs to be. Students may feel tired before the week has barely begun. Being overwhelmed on a daily basis can cause upset stomach, headaches or migraines, or feelings of despair – when everything seems bleak and there is nothing left to give.

It might not seem like it when you’re down, but living a more stress free life is possible, even for adults. There are some really easy ways to beat stress effectively. Here are a few that we can all try that can really make a difference:

1. A varied and healthy diet

Eating fresh ingredients and lots of fruit is really important. Juices filled with vitamin C, such as orange or grapefruit juice, are said to be good for the immune system which can help reduce stress.

2. Exercise

Doing something athletic at least once a week is the best way to reduce stress. It helps your body produce endorphins which make you feel good. Even a 30 minute walk can help reduce stress levels so everyone needs to ‘get those steps’!

3. Try meditation, yoga or relaxed breathing

It might sound simple, but sitting quietly for 10 minutes a day can really help with stress levels. Good breathing techniques can put the body in a more relaxed state as they send oxygen surging through the bloodstream, helping you calm down and beat the stress.

4. Sleep (and turn off the electronic devices!)

Sleep is always the best medicine and some people find that small 20-minute naps can help increase productivity.  Teenagers, whose bodies are growing and changing, need even more sleep.

Students tend to spend too much time perusing social media sites and answering texts. Sociability is fun – but too much of it, and too much phone time, can lead to more stress.

5. Listen to music

Listening to music can help calm you down and put you in a better frame of mind.  If you’re feeling stressed, try turning on some music while you work to relax and motivate you.

6. Laugh…at lot

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it’s truly is!  Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow which automatically reduces stress.

7. Make a list

Jot down ideas, tasks and stuff you have to remember, then you won’t have to worry about forgetting.  You will free up your mind for focusing on other things than remembering.

8. One thing at a time

You’ll feel better and less stressed if you do just one thing at a time. If you must multi-task a few things during the day then set some time aside for that.  Single-tasking will allow higher quality results right away and give a sense of accomplishment and relief.

9. Don’t make mountains out of molehills

One of the best ways to make your day and life easier, lighter and less stressful is to not build mountains out of molehills. Try not to create extra drama, overthink or create a problem out of something that doesn’t matter much…or just out of thin air.

10. Spend 80% of your time focusing on a solution

…and only 20% of your time on dwelling on the issue or problem. You’ll live a much more action-filled life and feel less pessimistic and powerless if you do!

11. Ask instead of guessing

Reading minds is impossible.  Misunderstandings will be plentiful if you try to do it.  Communicate instead. You’ll have a lot less unnecessary conflicts, negativity and waste less of your and other people’s valuable time.

12. Make sure you take time to do what you love to do

Learn to get the necessary things done then relax. Prioritize what really matters and carve out time during the weekend or evenings for some downtime. Few things are better at relieving stress and creating positive energy than doing an activity that you love to do.

13. Ask for help and talk it out

This may be the most important thing for us all to remember. You don’t always have to go it alone. Reach out to a friend, a parent, or a teacher and talk about what’s weighing on your mind.  Just letting it out and verbalizing the issue can often help decrease the stress quite a bit… And remember to return the favor when someone else needs a sympathetic ear.

Finding a few favorites among these tips and habits can make a huge difference in taking the first step to living a much lighter and more balanced life.

Sure, there is always going to be a certain amount of stress placed upon us, but it is important to make sure that it does not get out of hand. It is also important not to place too much pressure on teenagers. Certain precautions should be taken to limit the amount of pressure and worry they have in their daily lives, so room is still left for leisure activities and fun.

Who likes anxiety and stress anyway, especially when you’re a teenager and still trying to figure it all out?

St. Patty’s Day Wishes from the School Board

March 17, 2017

Members of the MCPS school board handed out green carnations at MES this morning. Carnation sales were a fund-raiser for the MES PTO. Students pre-ordered flowers to be delivered Friday.

Board members Jim Goforth, Elliott Reed and Richard Shores visited classrooms at every grade level.


Happy faces all around this morning!

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