Monthly Archives: June 2016


Bush to ‘C’ Students at SMU: “You Too Can Be President”


After reading this article we realized how irrelevant grades are in determining success in any life. Some of us can relate because as of last and this month, many will graduate and we know some won’t get any honours. As far as we are concerned our lives are still good, its not the end of the world if you get a “c” average. We still have ‘untapped’ talent, a brain with lots of ideas and a network of people to rely on. So dont’ despair because of a low G.P.A., we are more than just numbers in life.


Former President George W. Bush isn’t typically celebrated for his public speaking skills, but he made an important and insightful point while delivering the commencement address at Southern Methodist University on or around May 16, 2015.

He said:

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say, ‘Well done.’
And as I like to tell the C students: You too, can be president.
Bush was making fun of himself for earning mediocre grades in college, while also granting some perspective for students graduating with less than stellar academic records.
He was highlighting the fact that grades don’t dictate the rest of your existence, and life is full of limitless possibilities.

Regardless of whether or not you like the guy or appreciated him as a president, he’s not wrong.

In fact, a number of other presidents did poorly in school at one point or another, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush. Vice President Joe Biden also struggled with his grades as both an undergraduate and a law student.

In addition to some of our country’s leaders, there are a number of incredibly successful entrepreneurs who didn’t allow their academic experiences to deter them from rising to the top.
Steve Jobs, for example, never finished college. The same is true for Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Likewise, the youngest female billionaire in the world, Elizabeth Holmes, who is revolutionizing medicine, dropped out of Stanford to pursue her dreams. Richard Branson suffered from dyslexia and dropped out of high school at the age of 15.

Simply put, while receiving an education in some form or another is important, there is no single path toward greatness.
As renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently stated while delivering the commencement address at the University of Massachusetts Amherst:

Your grades, whatever is your GPA, rapidly becomes irrelevant in your life. I cannot begin to impress upon you how irrelevant it becomes.
Because in life, they aren’t going to ask you your GPA.
…If a GPA means anything, it’s what you were in that moment — and it so does not define you for the rest of your life.
Intelligence is subjective, and academic achievement is not always a proper way to measure it. Success as a student is largely dependent on one’s ability to operate within a certain system, but it’s not always the best preparation for the real world.
A person’s character, experiences and connections, not grades, ultimately determine their direction in life.
Success requires passion, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to understand the value of failure.
This is precisely why we see so many “C” students, people we wouldn’t necessarily expect, running the world. They understand what it means to struggle, and often have to overcome more obstacles than many people realize.
This is not to say that getting poor grades guarantees success, but that doing well in school doesn’t mean you’ll always be on top.

In the end, grades are just arbitrary letters on a page. True achievement is a product of making observable and altruistic changes in the real world.

So if you just graduated from high school or college and you didn’t finish with honors, don’t despair. Life is full of ups and downs, and while we learn a great deal in school, the real education occurs after you leave the classroom.
Never stop learning, never give up and remember to enjoy the ride along the way.

Here is the whole speech –
usa-flag-wallpaper-01 ***

Idaho: Boise Superintendent Stands Up to the Privatizing

Don Coberly RGB

Dr. Don Coberly, the superintendent of the Boise, Idaho,

Dr. Don Coberly, the superintendent of the Boise, Idaho, school district,wrote a blunt letter to the district’s staff telling them not to believe the smears disseminated by the rich and powerful Albertson Foundation. This would be like the superintendent of Los Angeles telling Eli Broad to take his money and go away. Or the superintendent of any district including Prince George’s County to turn down a bribe from the Gates Foundation to open more charters.

The Albertson Foundation has been pushing charters and virtual charters. It doesn’t like public education. It is running an anti-public school campaign called “Don’t Fail Idaho” in that state.  It is about time that an educators with guts started a campaign calling out the Albertson Foundation for their anti-public school propaganda. Call it the “Albertson Foundation Fails Democracy” campaign.

Superintendent Coberly wrote:

Dear Boise School District staff member:
It’s been a while since we have communicated directly with you in an update. We wanted to take this opportunity to address an important issue.
Over the last few weeks you may have heard or seen the latest advertisements from the J.A and Kathryn Albertson Foundation’s “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign.  Perhaps the most controversial claim is that four out of five Idaho students are not prepared for life after high school.  There are four facts we want you to understand about this campaign:
  1. It promotes an agenda that is designed to undermine public schools.
  2. It is highly inaccurate.
  3. It offers no real solutions to increasing post-secondary readiness.
  4. It is a disservice to the work you do every day for the youth of this district.
Undermining public schools
Why would someone want to undermine public education in Idaho?  The motive is quite clear. At a recent Downtown Rotary Club meeting, the executive director of the Albertson Foundation stated that the goal of the Foundation is to increase charter school seats by 20,000 in the next few years. That will only happen if Idahoans lose faith in their public schools.
Predicting college success
Now let’s set the record straight.  The data in question have been spun to create the illusion that 80% of Idaho’s high school graduates are not prepared for college. The source of the data is the 2015 SAT test, administered to juniors in Idaho’s high schools last April. The criteria used by the Foundation? A score of 500 on each of the 3 sections of the test, and an overall score of 1550, adopted by the Idaho Board of Education as an indicator of college success. 
The creator of the SAT indicated that achieving this score provides a 66% chance that a freshman will achieve a grade average of B- in the first semester at a four-year college. While this may be one predictor of success in college, it clearly does not reflect other factors that often are more important. High school grades are more predictive than SAT scores. Experience in Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses are more important. Enrollment and success in Professional Technical coursework, such as Welding or Auto Body, is more important.
Among members of the Boise District high school graduating class of 2009 who have graduated from college, nearly 40% did not achieve the benchmark when they took the SAT or its competitor, the ACT. According to the Foundation, it must be a miracle they graduated from college.
Additionally, we know that only 1 in 10 Boise District students entering Boise State University require remediation in math and reading. This is direct evidence that at least 90% of District students are prepared for college – and that’s due to the tremendous work you do with our students.
  Our commitment to post-secondary readiness
The ad is just one more indication that the Foundation is out of touch with where Idaho is going. For the first time in nearly a decade, The Governor, State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Legislature, ISBA, IASA, and the IEA are working together to build up our public education system, funding schools more properly and making teacher salaries more competitive in order to improve the economy and develop a more educated citizenry. The Albertsons Foundation is trying to tear it down.
Your efforts are appreciated
In spite of the disheartening rhetoric that the Albertson Foundation is promoting, we know that the community supports and recognizes the work that all of you do daily to prepare our students.  We will continue to oppose any effort to undermine your dedication, our students’ successes and the role public schools play in creating a vibrant, healthy city and state.
Please feel free to share the information contained herein with parents and community members who might have questions for you about the negative campaign being waged across the state by the Albertson Foundation. We value your service to the community and to our students, and we know that parents and community members do, as well.
Our District’s mission is to “graduate each student prepared for college, career, and citizenship”. Thanks so much for all you do to help us achieve this mission.
Dr. Don Coberly
Boise School District  boise


Downtown Boise – Idaho


Prince George’s Develops a SafeTrack Plan After All


Prince George’s County officials announced that they had developed a comprehensive action plan to help the county’s public transit riders Photo courtesy Jun 9


In a welcome reversal of course last week, Prince George’s County officials announced that they had developed a comprehensive action plan to help the county’s public transit riders navigate around the upcoming shutdowns and disruptions of Metrorail service during SafeTrack, WMATA’s yearlong plan of major infrastructure repairs.

Two of Metro’s fifteen planned “safety surges” will most directly impact Prince George’s County commuters. The first will occur on June 18-July 3, when all Metrorail service across the Anacostia River on the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines will be shut down due to the closure of Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue stations. The second will occur on November 12-December 6, when there will be continuous single-tracking on the Green and Yellow lines between Greenbelt and College Park stations.

Earlier, the county’s Department of Public Works & Transportation (DPW&T) stated that it was not able to provide any additional services during SafeTrack and that county commuters would need to take it upon themselves to make alternative transportation arrangements. After Prince George’s Urbanist and others decried the county’s initial response and local media outlets began asking hard questions about the county’s plans, officials began to rethink their approach to this looming transportation crisis.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” County Executive Rushern Baker declared at last week’s press conference. “We’re going to do everything we can” to help commuters survive SafeTrack safely. Here are some of the particular elements of the county’s mitigation plan, as laid out by DPW&T Director Darrell Mobley:

  • Prince George’s will increase local rush hour express bus service on TheBus route 15X, which connects New Carrollton and Greenbelt stations.
  • WMATA will have 40 shuttle buses that will operate every 5-10 minutes during peak periods from Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road stations to Eastern Market, with interim stops at Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue.
  • WMATA will double its rush hour bus service on Metrobus routes 97 (Capitol Heights to Union Station, U Street, Woodley Park, and Tenlytown) and T18 (New Carrollton to Rhode Island Avenue).
  • WMATA will run the Metro Extra express bus route X9 (Capitol Heights to Metro Center via Gallery Place) all day, instead of just during rush hour.
  • The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has agreed to provide additional railcars on MARC’s Camden Line.

In addition to those mitigation efforts, the county is planning a robust public outreach program, including the deployment of “street teams” of DPW&T employees at affected Metro Stations. These teams will directly engage with transit riders and provide them with information on alternative transportation options.

The county stressed that its mitigation efforts “will not remove inconvenience” related to SafeTrack and are being provided primarily for those who have no choice but to take public transit. DPW&T is urging everyone who can telework, bike, or carpool to work to do so.

More Mitigation May Be Necessary

County Executive Baker stressed that this initial action plan may need to be adjusted in response to evolving traffic conditions: “We’re going to look at how the situation is unfolding, and we’re going to make the best decision for the residents of Prince George’s County to get back and forth…We’re going to make the adjustments we need to make to make people’s commutes as easy as possible.”

In the event the county’s mitigation efforts need to be enhanced, officials would do well to consider these specific proposals:

  • The county should run a free shuttle bus between Addison Road and either Suitland or Naylor Road, to provide a safe and reliable connection between the impacted Blue and Silver Line stations and the Green Line.
  • The county should establish HOV/bus lanes along selected arterial streets, to facilitate the quick movement of bus shuttles and carpools.
  • The county may need to arrange for additional satellite commuter parking lots and bus shuttles near southern Green Line stations, in case the parking lots at those stations fill up. Usually, there is excess parking capacity at several of the stations, but that may not be the case during the upcoming safety surge, when Orange, Blue, and Silver line riders may flock to the Green Line as an alternate.

Without question, the upcoming SafeTrack repairs will be a hassle for all concerned. However, the pain should be a little easier to bear now that Prince George’s County officials are thinking seriously about mitigation efforts.

UPDATE (06/14/2016 @ 6:20 pm): DPW&T issued an alert earlier this evening stating that WMATA is calling for a 60-70% reduction in Metrorail transit riders on the OR/BL/SV lines during SafeTrack Surge #2. If that is true, it seems even more likely that Prince George’s will need to employ additional mitigation efforts to avoid perpetual gridlock.

via Prince George’s Urbanist blogvre331lenfantbetw12CewlqwEXIAA-xKw


PGCPS Considers Changing Grading System


Prince George’s County public high school students could see significant changes to the grading system in August.

The county school board is considering raising grades so that the lowest grade a student could earn in the first three quarters would be 50 percent. Students can currently earn zero to 59 percent, which counts as a failing E grade.

Assignments would be graded on the same scale and teachers could not give grades any lower than 50 as long as the student shows effort.

A similar grading policy already exists for elementary and middle schools in the county.

High school teachers would also not be allowed to factor a student’s behavior when determining their grades.

Supporters of the recommendation said the change would prevent students from giving up on a class mid-semester. They said it would also reduce “inequity” in the grades students earn.

However, the Prince George’s County Education Association protested the idea at a school board meeting on Thursday.

“Our teachers are professional educators and each educator has a class system for late work. Is your name on a paper good faith? How is this making students college and career ready when we are not teaching the basic skills of being timely with your work?,” said Theresa Dudley, president of PGCEA.

Officials are also considering adding an additional parent-teacher conference day to the school calendar to help increase parent engagement and feedback.

Via NBC4 Washington TeensKidsSex-AP_16160788929316


Five eye-opening figures from the U.S. Education

Department’s latest civil rights data dump…


Catherine Lhamon, who leads the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, speaking last month during the GLSEN Respect Awards in New York. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for GLSEN Respect Awards)

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday released a trove of data drawn from surveys of nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. This latest installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection, from the 2013-2014 school year, offers a sobering look at the wide disparities in experience and opportunity that divide the nation’s 50 million students.

By the fall, anyone will be able to look up data on a specific school or school district online. GreatSchools, the website that provides information about school test scores and demographics, also is planning to incorporate the civil rights data into its school profiles.

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

A growing body of research has shown that children who are chronically absent from school are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out. It makes sense: Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

High school counselors often have tough jobs. They keep track of their students’ progress toward graduation. They help students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process. They also help kids navigate their lives outside of school, which can be made complex by poverty, violence and family trouble. And because counselors often are one of the first positions to be cut when budgets get tight, there are almost never enough to go around. The national average is close to 500 students per school counselor; many student have no counselor at all.

3. 1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor.

The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection for the first time counted how many schools have a sworn law-enforcement officer: 24 percent of elementary schools and 42 percent of high schools. Among high schools with predominantly black and Hispanic populations (i.e., more than 75 percent of students were black and Latino), more than half — 51 percent — had an officer.

Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely than white students to attend schools like this. The same students of color are more likely than white students to attend schools where more than 20 percent of teachers are in their first year of teaching.

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Activists and journalists have helped draw attention to disparities in school discipline in recent years. The Obama administration has also called attention to the gaps and pressed schools to address them. Even with all that attention, the difference in suspension rates among the youngest children are still surprising.

Stay tuned: In the next civil rights data dump, two years from now, the Education Department expects to include new data that promises to be just as interesting — including on corporal punishment in preschool, allegations of bullying based on sexual orientation and religion, teacher turnover and discipline-related transfers to alternative schools.

via Emma Brown Washington PostUSA-Flag-Wallpaper-01


Community claims civil rights violation after power plant approval

mattawoman_plant_renderingBRANDYWINE – The approval of fifth power plant near Brandywine has community activists fuming.

On May 18, Earthjustice, the largest environmental law nonprofit in the country, filed a complaint with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) alleging that the approval of a 859-megawatt power plant in Brandywine by the Public Service Commission (PSC) is a violation of the community’s civil rights.

“Title VI prohibits entities receiving federal financial assistance from engaging in activities that subject individuals to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” the complaint reads. “As entities receiving financial assistance from DOT or EPA, the PSC, MDE and MDNR are subject to Title VI’s prohibition against discrimination. The issuance of the CPCN violates that prohibition by disproportionately subjecting black residents of Brandywine to air pollution and other negative impacts based on their race.”

It claims the plant will disproportionately impact African-Americans due to increased noise, traffic congestion and air pollution and decreased property values. Patuxent Riverkeeper and Brandywine TB Coalition, the groups on whose behalf the suit was filed, want the state of Maryland to be compelled to “conduct a full and fair analysis of disparate impacts from the proposed facility” and “conduct a full and fair consideration of alternatives that would avoid such disparate impacts.”

Neil Gormley, the Earthjustice attorney who filed the complaint, said this situation is an example of a larger problem in the state.

“The situation in Brandywine is an egregious example of discrimination. But the whole process for deciding how Marylanders get their energy is systematically biased against low-income communities and communities of color. To comply with the Civil Rights Act, Maryland needs a process to ensure that future energy development doesn’t mean even more pollution for these communities,” he said.

The complaint alleges that the power plants would not have been approved if they impacted Caucasian families. Brandywine is 72 percent African-American, while Maryland as a whole is only 6 percent African-American.

“The notion that these proposed or existing plants are all coincidentally located in the same minority community is preposterous. How often does lightning have to strike in the same place before one sees there is a sacrifice zone being created,” Frederick Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, said.

The complaint notes that PSC heard the community’s claims of discrimination but found that Mattawoman Energy was not being “intentionally racist” in choosing sites. However, the complaint argues that the effect of the decision was discriminatory, regardless of the intent.

PSC did note the public notice of the new plant- as required by law- was not sufficient. According to the complaint, members of the public were not informed of the public hearing until a week before it was to be held, and many were not aware the Mattawoman project was in addition to the other two plants under construction.

Additionally, Kamita Gray of Brandywine TB Coalition said residents on one side of the proposed site were given information, but those on the other side were not.

“There’s a disparity there. How do you tell one side of the street but not the other side?” she asked.

Tutman also feels the approval process for the new plant is flawed. Brandywine is currently home to two operating fossil fuel plants- Panda Brandywine and Chalk Point Generating Station- with two more under construction, PSEG Key Energy Center and St. Charles Energy Center. The new Mattawoman plant would bring the total to five within 13 miles of the community. But Tutman said each project’s impact was considered individually, not cumulatively.

“The PSC made clear that it does not need to look at the cumulative impacts, but instead each of the applications in a separate context. The notion that one could have a cluster of some four or five energy generation plants within 13 miles of one another and nobody looked at the cumulative impacts is shocking and egregious,” he said.

Gray agrees.

“For far too long, low income communities and communities of color have been on the front lines of environmental and economic injustice, shouldering the burdens of living in areas with higher rates of fossil fuel pollution and lower rates of income and employment. Lacking political power and the mechanisms for organized resistance, these communities are frequently chosen as sites for polluting facilities or feel compelled to accept them as a source of jobs despite the health hazards they pose,” she said.

She said the community is already suffering negative impacts from the air pollutants, such as ozone and ammonia, emitted by the plants already in operation.

“We talked to a few of the residents and they were concerned because they have children with asthma. Brandywine Elementary School is right there and we talked to them and some kids would go out to play and would come back inside with asthma attacks with just the air quality from the two plants already there,” she said.

The EPA did not respond to questions about this complaint or about how it handles civil rights complaints in general. The agency did, however, include environmental justice goals as part of its Action Plan 2020 (which has yet to be officially adopted).

Proponents of the plant say the plan went through all the proper state approvals. They also say it will contribute $1.2 billion to the economy over about twelve years, fund up to 800 construction jobs and 57 operations and support jobs, and provide power to 859,000 homes.

But the community said they will continue to push back against the new addition.

“I do not see the litigation necessarily as an attempt to stop the plant but rather an attempt to empower the affected community’s voice so that various issues and impacts related to the proposed construction of these plants can be taken into account before they are finally permitted,” Tutman said.

Gray agreed.

“To state that you followed the rules when the unfairness in the approval processes in itself is unjust without meaningful community engagement, contribution and participation,” she said.

Gray said her organization attended hearings in Annapolis on Friday with the Environmental Justice Commission, which yielded some positive results.

“It was positive in the sense that they said we all had to be at the table. We had both been talking about it but not together,” Gray said. “We want to sit down with Maryland state officials on how best to help the community.”

via Prince George’s sentinel 




A Teacher’s Advice on Graduation Day: What Matters Most


Kay McSpadden

Kay McSpadden is a teacher and a journalist in North Carolina. This is the graduation day speech she would like to give to her students.

“It’s graduation season, when young people leaving high school or college are forced to listen to notable speakers give them advice. Those fidgety students probably don’t hear much, and who can blame them. They are more concerned about not tripping on the stage than Taking the Road Less Traveled.

“No matter. Most of those graduates already have learned in school what they need to know to succeed. I’m not talking about the academic course work they mastered or the career plan they have mapped out. I’m talking about character and citizenship—traits too many people abandon as adults.

“I’m a teacher, not a notable speaker, but here’s what I’d say to the graduates—and more importantly, to the adults who need a refresher—if I had the chance.

“Leave everything better than you found it. School is all about improvement, you and everything around you. You went from knowing little to knowing a great deal while you were in school. You helped your classmates ace a project and spurred your team to the finals.

“The contributions of past students—an engraved silver punchbowl from the Class of 1955 still in use at the prom, a statue of the school mascot on the front lawn—are reminders that everyone who passes here leaves a mark.

“Adults forget this. We deny the toll we take on the earth. We mortgage the future of our children in order to live expansive lives now. We go for days and weeks and sometimes even a lifetime without learning anything new. We bisect the world into Us and Them and harm our communities with judgment instead of justice.

“Keep a servant heart. Once you were a frightened freshman lost in the halls of your new school, miserable until an older student pointed you in the direction of your classroom or offered you a seat at the lunch table. Later, you were the one reaching out to the new kid on the team or the club or the council.

“I’ll show you the way,” you said, and you did.

“Continue to be kind and offer genuine friendship to the lonely fellow traveler. Call out the bullies and give witness to compassion. Model the inclusiveness you seek. Keep opening your heart and our eyes to those with no voice of their own.

“Take that commitment with you as you head into a world that sharpens plowshares into swords, that wields words like weapons. Be better than the adults who have forgotten the lessons of school—the value of diverse viewpoints, the strength in working together, the need to honor the past while accepting change. Remind us what good students know—that listening is the skill to master first.

“Make wisdom your long game. More than any success you can measure, wisdom should be your goal as you gain experience. Look at the adults who, like Shakespeare’s King Lear, grew old without growing wise. Practice reason and logic and empathy until they are second nature to you. Be a skeptic about all things—people’s motives, untested outcomes, your own assertions.

“Be humble about your successes and grateful for your failures. Your best teachers were your hardest, most exacting ones, and you learned to accept their critiques and applause with grace and humility.

“Never stop being a student, willing to learn and change, even when doing so is hard. Remember Socrates’ great lesson that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and then go out and really live.”


ALERT: Prince George’s Says SafeTrack Isn’t Its Problem


In less than 2 weeks, WMATA will shut down Metrorail service across the Anacostia River on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines for 16 days, as part of its SafeTrack repair program. This will impact tens of thousands of commuters in Prince George’s County, who will still need to get to their jobs in downtown Washington and northern Virginia. Instead of adequately planning for this impending transit disaster, County Executive Rushern Baker and the Department of Public Works & Transportation have decided to tell riders to fend for themselves. This decision reflects a stunning failure of leadership and crisis management on the part of the county government.

For more information, please read blog article on the subject.