Tag: school

Maryland May Get a Pass on No Child Left Behind


Amid a climate of the most uncompromising partisan politics in recent memory, President Obama has decided to grant states waivers to the more sweeping aspects of No Child Left Behind while we wait, perhaps forever, for congress to pass a rewrite of the notorious education act. Under Obama’s plan, states that adopt certain education initiatives could apply for exemption from the widespread overhauls dictated by NCLB.

In Maryland, per current NCLB targets, a third of our schools are “failing.” As targets rise each year, more and more of our schools would be labeled as such. In a few years, NCLB would require major administrative and program overhauls across a large number of districts.

If Maryland receives a waiver, as the state’s interim Superintendent of Schools believes it will, fewer schools would be considered “failing” and only the bottom fifteen percent of schools would be targeted for major reforms.

Obama is expected to detail his plan to waive aspects of NCLB later today.

Winning College Essay: Redhead Pride


As a service to our young readers (and let’s face it, their neurotic parents) we will print over the next few months winning college essays from local students who were accepted into their first choice college or university. The author of the following essay is a Gilman alum and Dartmouth sophomore. See our top story “Coaching College Essays” for tips on how to write a winning college admissions essay.

Whenever I show a photo of my family to new friends, they invariably do a double take. No, it’s not because my father is Joe Biden nor because my sisters were raised by wolves. It’s because of me.

In my family of six, I am the only one with red hair — and not auburn-red, chestnut-red, or any red close to my parents’ brown, but a loudly lustrous, fire-orange red. And like most redheads and unlike my family, my arms are speckled with galaxies of freckles and my skin roasts scarlet under minimal sun exposure. I am, in many ways, a genetic non sequitur. My appearance does not follow from the premises of my existence.

As a result, strangers often either mistake me for someone else’s son or demand an explanation. From the moment I had a tuft of carrot on my head, the ladies in my mother’s garden club would come up to me, grab themselves a handful, and ask, “Where on earth did you get that fabulous red hair,” as if it were a rare ficus from the Galapagos. I heard the same from barbers, teachers, shopkeepers, anyone with a working pair of eyes, really.

Thankfully the answer doesn’t involve the mailman or tinkering with chromosomes. “From my grandmother,” I can say confidently, since I have inherited, quite unmistakably, the exact shade of persimmon-red hair of my mother’s mother. Coincidentally, I get my first name from her maiden name, making me a party to a remarkable hereditary phenomenon: all of the children on her side of the family named Harrison at birth — three of us so far — also, as a result of a certain common attribute, share a set of nicknames that includes “big red,” “carrot top,” and “pumpkin head.”

The oddity surrounding my birth and naming has always inclined me to consider my red hair a definitive aspect of my being, much more so, I imagine, than those with blond or brown hair do. As my hair goes with my name, so too should it with my identity. Growing up as a redhead, I’ve realized, I faced a unique set of challenges that have, for the better, profoundly influenced the person I have become.

One such challenge was the lack of redheads in my life. With Grandmother hours away, I was the lone freckle-face at home, and often the only one in the class. The sole redhead on TV came on way past my bedtime. The only fair-skinned fictional hero I ever found was a comic-book character. And as for historical figures, let’s just say I gave up on them when I learned that George Washington had red hair but powdered it white.

I was in a world all my own — a solitude that, while alienating at times, ultimately helped me find myself. By the time I reached the impressionable years of middle school, I felt in full command, able to deviate from the standard paths and avoid ready-made molds at will. I found my callings and threw myself into them with all of my might, even if they were things that might be mocked in the locker room.

While my friends trained to become expert video-game warriors, I armed myself with my parents’ old Nikon and took pictures. With some luck and some hard work, I caught the eye of a veteran photographer and spent a summer in his studio. I also did not seek to hide my love of food, and preparing it. In my lacrosse-playing days, I was known to cook for my teammates after hard-fought games. And now, I have taken a chance on a year off in a far-away land, working at King’s Academy in Jordan, a blooming, young school in a region marred by violence and strife. This is a risk I know for certain I could not have taken without the courage I amassed through these experiences.

My grandmother used to tell me, “There aren’t many of us, you know. You should feel pretty special.” And I do, because although I’ve flown solo for much of my life, I’ve found that the path that strays from the flock often leads to a world of infinite possibilities.



Rising Sixth Grade Required Summer Reading


For rising sixth graders, the last two weeks of summer are both exciting and dreadful; each fleeting day marks a notch in the countdown to school.  On the one hand, thoughts of mixers and sports teams evoke happy anticipation. Procrastinated summer reading, on the other hand, does not.  These days, schools allow students to pick most of their summer reading books but require one or two titles by read by all students. Below is a list of the required books Baltimore’s eleven and twelve year olds have been neglecting:

Bryn Mawr School 

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, & servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life and her own depend on it.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. 

Red-haired Anne, with a temperament to match, knows from her first moment at Green Gables that she wants to stay and not be sent back to the orphanage.  It’s difficult for this spirited girl to hold her tongue and be the girl the Cuthberts want her to be.  Anne’s imagination and engaging ways soon charm all whom she meets. 

Gilman School

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden. Especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: To Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha’s heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil’s dad, who sees a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Maricela, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead. Thirteen very different voices — old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted, and hopeful — tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood.

Roland Park Country School

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns

Without honey bees the world would be a different place. There would be no honey, no beeswax for candles, and, worst of all, barely a fruit, nut, or vegetable to eat. So imagine beekeeper Dave Hackenburg’s horror when he discovered twenty million of his charges had vanished. Those missing bees became the first casualties of a mysterious scourge that continues to plague honey bee populations today. In The Hive Detectives, Loree Griffin Burns profiles bee wranglers and bee scientists who have been working to understand colony collapse disorder, or CCD. In this dramatic and enlightening story, readers explore the lives of the fuzzy, buzzy insects and learn what might happen to us if they were gone.

Boys’ Latin

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.

When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”

But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy. 

Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.


People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

The People of Sparks picks up where The City of Ember leaves off. Lina and Doon have emerged from the underground city to the exciting new world above, and it isn’t long before they are followed by the other inhabitants of Ember. The Emberites soon come across a town where they are welcomed, fed, and given places to sleep. But the town’s resources are limited and it isn’t long before resentment begins to grow between the two groups. When anonymous acts of vandalism push them toward violence, it’s up to Lina and Doon to discover who’s behind the vandalism and why, before it’s too late.


Note to sixth graders:  Reading the one paragraph synopses above does not count as reading the book. The Eds.