Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fairfax County Resolution on Assessment

Agenda Item Details

Meeting:    Nov 18, 2013 - Regular Meeting No. 8
Category:   Meeting Opening - 7 p.m.
Subject:     Fairfax County School Board Resolution on State Assessment and
                 Accountability Reform
Type:        Action

Fairfax County School Board

     WHEREAS, in recent years the proliferation of high stakes standardized testing and the increasing role played by those test scores in key educational policy decisions, while well intentioned, has resulted in a narrowing of the instructional mission of schools, and caused a focus on compliance rather than on fostering a love of learning and instilling a culture of constant instructional improvement; and

     WHEREAS, Virginia’s students must currently take thirty-four criterion-referenced Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments between grades three and eleven, greatly increasing the amount of time spent by students and teachers on taking and managing assessments rather than on learning and teaching, with little evidence that students are better prepared to succeed in college and in their chosen careers by having taken such a volume of tests; little research to verify the usefulness and accuracy of Virginia’s method of relying upon SOL test results to measure growth in student achievement; and little research to verify that Virginia’s method of measuring student growth provides a valid and reliable indicator of teacher, principal and superintendent performance; and

     WHEREAS, the current Standards of Learning and their associated assessments are still largely focused on information recall and do not adequately address the acquisition and mastery of the skills required for students to be successful in the 21st Century such as innovation, literacy, collaboration, critical analysis, creative thinking, problem solving, and communication; and

     WHEREAS, what occurs in classrooms every day should be student-centered and result in learning at a deep and meaningful level with opportunities for students to cultivate their unique individual talents, provide options for students that are designed to respect how they learn best, and embrace the concept that students can be both consumers and creators of knowledge;  as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from the current over-emphasis on that which can be easily measured by standardized tests; and

     WHEREAS, we recognize the need for and support accountability and transparency in public schools, but believe that such accountability should be designed to appropriately assess the achievement of all students, provide educationally-valuable information, recognize the roles of students, parents, teachers and schools in those results, and which can be leveraged to improve educational policy and practice;

     NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Fairfax County School Board calls on the Virginia General Assembly and Virginia Board of Education to reexamine Virginia’s public school assessments and the system of accountability for which they form the basis to ensure that the state’s assessment system provides educationally-valuable information, is reliable, valid, fair, and nonintrusive on the learning process and allows for the measurement of the acquisition and mastery of “21st Century Skills;” and

     ALSO, BE IT RESOLVED that such a reexamination to improve the current accountability and assessment system should potentially include a consideration of the use of statistically valid sampling techniques as utilized by assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), opportunities to allow students to forgo standardized assessments in certain years based on previous high achievement levels, and expanded use of internationally benchmarked assessments as a substitute for SOL assessments.

Motion & Voting

adopt the Fairfax County School Board resolution on state assessment and accountability reform

Motion by Ryan McElveen, second by Theodore Velkoff.
Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Jane K Strauss, Sandra S Evans, Elizabeth Schultz, Ryan McElveen, Kathy L Smith, Tamara D Kaufax - Vice Chairman, Ilryong Moon - Chairman, Megan McLaughlin, Patricia Hynes, Patricia S Reed, Theodore Velkoff, Daniel G Storck

Monday, November 18, 2013

Excella and WIT present she++

from Kara Redmann of Excella via Mary Van Dyke:
Did you know that only 18% of undergraduate degrees in computer science go to women? This is contributing to a growing skills shortage, as we lose young women who could be the programmers, technical architects, and data designers of tomorrow.
she++ is a documentary by two Stanford computer science undergraduates that investigates this critical issue. The documentary has been screened in 13 countries and covered in magazines like Forbes- and now Excella and WIT are bringing it to DC.
Join Excella Consulting and Women in Technology (WITon Thursday, December 12thfrom 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM for a screening of the she++ documentary and a panel discussion with local industry leaders.
This event is free to all attendees and will be held at the Navy League Building in Arlington. Food and refreshments will be provided. 
To sign up, please visit:
Our list of panelists includes:
  • Dr. Erin Fitzgerald - Director of the Minerva Research Initiative in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Hoover - Chief Technology Officer for the Alexandria City Public Schools.
  • Angela Drummond - Founder and CEO of SiloSmashers, a federal strategy and management consulting firm.
  • Dr. Jan Plane - Senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland.
Additional panelists will be announced on the Eventbrite signup page as they are confirmed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mary Ellen Henderson First LEGO League Tournament

The Mary Ellen Henderson First LEGO League tournament took place this weekend in Falls Church, with over 400 participants. 
The Wolfbots from Arlington's Williamsburg Middle School pictured below were 5th out of 24 in the robotics competition (second overall in the 7th-8th grade age group)and received the Judges Award.  Coach Robb Dudek is also Arlington's lead teacher in VEX Robotics.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hoffman-Boston's Stargazing Event

One of the most ambitious STEM schools in our area, Hoffman-Boston Elementary School in Arlington, held a Stargazing event on November 7 for the school community.  The night began with a dinner in the cafeteria, then a welcome from Principal Kimberley Graves and Links representatives Jackie Bolden and Marion Spraggins.

NASA Administrator and Retired Marine Corps Major General Frank Bolden Jr. and Deputy Director Colleen Hartman made remarks to those present.

After additional comments from Goddard Astronomy Club President Joe Novotka, the participants rotated through great Astronomy-based experiences inside and out.  Members of the NOVA Astronomy Club were in the small field beside the school to take advantage of the clear sky for viewing the moon and nearby galaxies.

Astronomy Club members welcomed visitors to take photos with their smartphones through the many telescopes available.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Real World Design Challenge on Precision Agriculture

Sign your team up for the 2013-2014 Real World Design Challenge on Precision Agriculture! 

Precision Agriculture Challenge:

This year's challenge will be focused on the design and implementation of a UAS to support precision agriculture, specifically the monitoring and assessment of crop conditions to achieve increased yield. The teams will employ a systems engineering design and integration approach and support their work with a business case. Students will learn engineering principle through a inquiry-based approach in a highly interactive and experiential setting.

The Challenge details are now posted on and on the Getting Started Page.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Arlington's Taylor Elementary is recognized for Arts integration

21st Century Curriculum | October 2013 Digital Edition

For These Schools, Adding Arts to STEM Boosts Curriculum

Adding the arts to a STEM curriculum engages students who might otherwise have been left behind
This article originally appeared in T.H.E. Journal's October 2013 digital edition.
painting of a leaf & a bug
A STEAM project at Taylor Elementary was painting the life cycle of flowers in the style of Georgia O'Keefe.
Say you're the principal of a school that has been hit by an F5 tornado. No one is hurt, thank goodness, but teachers, students, and staff must move to a temporary school while your damaged school is repaired. Do you try to simply achieve a sense of normalcy during two years of displacement?
Many principals would. And who would blame them? But Deron Cameron, principal of University Place Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, AL, saw the calamity caused by the April 2011 twister as an opportunity to do more. Armed with grants and donations from around the country, Cameron was determined to not only bring back some of the students his school had lost when the school moved, but to turn the misfortune into an advantage. "We met last year as a faculty and said, 'When we go back into our building, we don't want to do the same-old-same-old. We need to research some practices so it can be a win-win for our students,'" Cameron says.
After investigating a handful of educational approaches that ranged from Montessori to STEM, Cameron and his faculty settled on STEAM, a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--plus the arts. "We liked the arts in STEAM," Cameron says. "Our students have great creativity. We saw that the creativity of STEAM would add another facet."
Other schools are taking up the STEAM approach, even without the hardship of displacement and rebuilding. They come to STEAM because they believe the arts are important, or because they want to reach all of their students, not just the ones who thrive on straight academics.
Jeremy Ferrara, who teaches fourth grade at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, VA, says that his "aha moment" came one Saturday a couple of years ago, when he watched a student from his class creating scenery for a school musical. "This kid wasn't very strong academically," Ferrara says. "I watched him working on the set for two hours, while he measured the cardboard and lined up the pieces. I didn't talk to him, I just watched. He was completely into it. And in the end, everything came out perfectly symmetrical. It just opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn't reaching this kid the right way."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Integrating Science (Fiction) into Art

Integrating Art into STEM (for STEAM) always seemed less tangible to me than integrating STEM into Art (you pick the acronym or initialism). But I think that inviting students to re-create famous paintings with new features is a brilliant way to acknowledge polymathy and overlapping interests.

from Alice's Blog on My Modern Met

Star Wars Characters Invade Thomas Kinkade Paintings

What do you get when you mix the idyllic pastel paintings by Thomas Kinkade with characters from Star Wars? Something hilariously original! Artist Jeff Bennett recently created an awesome series called War on Kinkade that shows what happens when stormtroopers, AT-ATs, and Imperial Star Destroyers attack the incredibly sweet American scenes Kinkade is famous for, which include beautiful gardens, streams, stone cottages and bridges.

You've just got to love Technabob's description of these, "It’s as if the Empire has invaded a quiet Christmas village and turned it into an Imperial base."

You couldn't go into a mall in America without seeing a Thomas Kinkade painting sold somewhere. The recently deceased painter was claimed to be "America's most-collected living artist" before his death, with an estimated 1 in every 20 American homes owning a copy of one of his paintings.