Tag: schools

What’s Going On With Cheating Around Here? To be Fair, It’s Everywhere…

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In early spring, The Baltimore Sun revealed that city schools administrators spent $320,000 to hire and train test monitors to prevent cheating during the state’s annual standardized test. That story came soon after a friend had passed on to me “The Shadow Scholar” a first-hand account on The Chronicle of Higher Education website by a writer who churns out papers for college cheaters.  All this was a sad reminder of rumors that swirled last year about a Baltimore senior who had been caught cheating. I witnessed parents clash over dinner about how the school handled it (suspension not expulsion).

Race to Nowhere” a new documentary that was screened this winter at Park School sheds some light on the problem. The documentary follows over-achievers and their driven parents in the high-income central coast of California, but the angst and dysfunction of the students could easily be found at any affluent neighborhood in any city across the country, including Baltimore. Teens admit on camera to cheating and say they feel like every test, every grade, every paper is do or die and they just can’t always do their best after rising early for a full day of school, followed by hours of grueling athletics and late nights of strenuous homework. Yet they can’t fathom losing their place at the top of the class. Similarly, when someone at Baltimore’s George Washington Elementary School tampered with test booklets in 2008, was it fear of job loss that motivated the behavior? (The principal at the school was removed and the new teacher and current staff are doing their best to raise scores legitimately. See the George Washington Elementary rap “My Pencil” about passing the MSA starring teacher Mr. McCraw on our video landing below.)

I’m not trying to make excuses.  I’m trying to understand the shift in our culture.  Or has there been a shift? A friend pointed out that cheaters have been around since the beginning of time. Fair enough. But doesn’t it seem more rampant? Ask your kids. I hear it is more widespread, but what are you hearing?  More importantly, what do we do about it? 

What $350,000 Buys in Baltimore

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So what does $350,000 buy you in Baltimore? Well, it depends where you’re looking. We chose seven of our favorite neighborhoods and a $350,000 ballpark – a respectable, but not luxurious amount to play with.  If a house is listed higher than $350,000, it means we think you could make an offer. The ‘Zestimate,’ as most of you will know, is the Zillow real estate website’s take on what a house is really worth.  This is what we found:

Mt. Washington  – median listing price: $295,000

Ahhh ….the charm of village life –cafes, bars, cute shops, Whole Foods, (a pottery studio!) — together with rolling hills and generous wooded lots. Mt. Washington has a lot of diversity for a high-end suburban-feeling neighborhood. Maybe it’s the super public school or maybe it’s the easy access to the light rail stop, but that diversity is a big selling point when it comes to raising a family. It takes a village… 

5911 Bonnie View Drive, 21209

Price: $350,000

Zestimate: $404,000

3,090 sq. ft.

.62 acre lot

Built: 1967

 

Architectually intriguing with a ‘60’s vibe, a classic modernist house in the woods. 5 bedrooms and 3 baths, with custom cabinetry, built-ins, and shelving throughout. Wood burning fireplace, hardwood floors. Walls of glass overlook a  private wooded (re:low maintenance) lot.  Pretty cool. Near Mt. Washington Village.

 

Hampden – median listing price $169,600

Trendy Hampden, with its blue collar attitude and relatively inexpensive real estate, is a mecca for artists and hipsters. The kitschy storefronts on it’s bustling Avenue (36th Street) reflect this, but look a little closer and you’ll find some seriously good food, wine and fun shopping. This is Baltimore’s fastest-growing retail district. Your public elementary school here is five star Medfield, and it’s just minutes to Wyman and Druid Hill parks.

3669 Ash Street, 21211

Price: $205,000 (with $$$ to spare – this place could be a little dream home)

Zestimate: $179,000

1,853 sq. ft.

.07 acre lot

Built in 1880

 

Lovely stone mill house with charm to spare, situated on a quiet hillside street. House has been completely renovated within the past 10 years and is technically in move-in condition, but has potential for much more. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths. Large kitchen and master suite with attached full bath. Wood floors and tons of closet space, unusual for an older home.  Downstairs mudroom. Walk over to the Avenue, or up to the light rail and Woodberry Kitchen.

 

Federal Hill — median listing price $325,600

‘Historically hip’ and ‘eternally stylish’ according to Baltimore Magazine’s Neighborhood Guide, Federal Hill has more history than you can shake a stick at, from the Hill to the Cross Street Market. Cobblestone streets and period homes are a visual treat, and so are views across the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill Park. There is a real neighborhood feeling here, with book clubs, dog walking groups and life-long residents. But there’s new energy and spark in the eclectic art and ongoing events at the American Visionary Art Museum and the culinary delights of Light Street. Federal Hill in 2011 is pure urban joy. 

208 East Cross Street

Price: $399,000

Zestimate: $278,500

1,285 sq. ft.

small courtyard garden 

Built: 1920

 

A Federal style attached row house, with a bright and sunny aspect, in historic Federal Hill. Three bedrooms and two baths over four stories, and a three level atrium. It’s the flood of light and generous room size that distinguishes this house, with landscaped courtyard, full basement with great storage and nice, updated features. Walk to downtown Baltimore, Orioles Park, light rail and MARC train to DC.

 

Patterson Park – median listing price $109,900

A little more gritty than Federal Hill, and way more ethnically diverse, Patterson Park is tucked between Canton and Johns Hopkins Hospital, a former landing-point for generations of Eastern European immigrants. But real-estate here is well priced, and the wide-open space of Patterson Park (155 acres in the heart of the city, with ice rink and swimming pool) is all yours. Patterson Park was recently included in Southern Living’s list of 10 Best Comeback Neighborhoods, and is home to several popular restaurants, including Salt.

8 Milton Avenue North, 21224

Price: $369,000

Zestimate: none available 

1,960 sq. ft.

no lot: but Patterson Park is your front yard …

Built: 1920

 

 

Right on the park, this 3 bedroom townhouse has 3 full baths and a deluxe master bedroom suite with balcony and views. A total recent rehab has left it still with plenty of charm, plus custom finishes, modern appliances, hardwood floors, granite countertops and finished family room. Maybe not a ‘forever’ house, but great for a young Hopkins doc.

Private parking, too.

 

Harbor East – median listing price $418,000

Harbor East is not a neighborhood in the traditional sense, but it is home to some of the best Baltimore has to offer. Centered around several luxurious waterfront condominiums, it’s all here — sushi and shoes, Charleston and Whole Foods, Landmark Cinema, South Moon Under and an ever-changing landscape of pop-up shops. For the young, or not-so-young Baltimore urban professional, this is as close as it gets to Manhattan.

250 President Street #602, 21202

Price: $375,000

Zestimate: $315,000

1858 sq. ft.

Built: 1988

condo

 

Inner Harbor high-rise living, complete with the amenities of fitness center, indoor pool, parking and a 24 hour front desk. This 2 bedroom, 2 bath, open-plan condo has wood floors, a fireplace, granite countertops and modern kitchen, as well as storage room and a stunning balcony. 250 President Street is in the heart of the Harbor, Little Italy, Fells Point and all the excitement of the city.

 

Rodgers Forge – median listing price $210,000

Exactly 9.5 miles from the towers of the Inner Harbor, leafy Rodgers Forge might be the next stop for that now married-with-kids urban professional. On offer are great public schools, a communal children’s playground known as the Tot Lot, and the quiet, intergenerational aspect of a long-established neighborhood. There’s no fine dining in these parts, but the comforts of Bill Bateman’s, Chipotle and Panera await on nearby York Road. Real estate values here tend to climb slowly and steadily, and the houses’ solid curb appeal will convince your parents you’ve finally grown up.

416 Hopkins Road, 21212

Price: $349,000

Zestimate: $315,000

2,310 sq. ft.

.05 acre lot

Built: 1935

 

A well maintained Tudor-style townhouse with an impressive stone exterior, a nice brick patio in the back and a detached garage. It has 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths, as well as a finished third floor. Your dad will say ‘they don’t build ‘em like this anymore’ noting the solid paneled doors, nice hardware and gleaming hardwood floors.. The windows have been recently replaced. Ditto the roof, and the kitchen has been nicely renovated – so you should be good for the next 50 years or so. 

 

Bolton Hill – median listing price $298,700

Less historic, but more swank than the downtown city neighborhoods, Bolton Hill is rich in aesthetics — church steeples, marble staircases, huge trees – and stylish art students from nearby MICA. It’s a small collection of architectural gems, urban mansions and townhouses – very congenial, if a little short on street life. The expanding presence of MICA seems to be changing that, and there are a good handful of coffee and sandwich shops, but for now you still need a car to get your groceries. Five hundred dollars buys a resident membership in the Bolton Swim and Tennis Club, a huge draw for families with kids. 

1615 Park Avenue #2,  21217

Price: $369,000

Zestimate: $288,000

2,188 sq. ft.

Built in 1903

Condo

 

Huge! The condo takes up the entire second floor of one of Baltimore’s finest old turn-of-the-century mansions (think Mary Tyler Moore). This is living on a grand and elegant scale, with high ceilings and oversized windows that look out onto Park Avenue gardens and fountain. Hardwood floors, two wood-burning fireplaces (never mind how you get the wood up there) and deep ceiling moldings are some of the historic details. There’s a chef’s kitchen with a big granite island for nights when you can’t face the two minute walk to b bistro as well as 2 good size bedrooms and 2 full baths –all new and in top condition.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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When our first child Emily was born, we were young, but not too young, and so eager to provide her with the life that we envisioned for her—no opportunity denied her, no experience beyond her reach. We would give her everything she could ever want or need.

My husband and I have compatible philosophies about childrearing, and while we planned to craft a comfortable existence for our children, we also knew that we would have high expectations for them. They would be well behaved, and we would be disciplined. They would work hard, and we would reward them. They would be good people—we would see to it. Naturally, they would attend the finest colleges and universities, and meet every measure society might place alongside them.

Fast forward nearly seventeen years… Beautiful Emily, born on a cold January evening, has exceeded our hopes and expectations. She has played sports, a musical instrument, participated in clubs, activities, even scouts, and has done well academically. She has been nominated to leadership programs, and won scholarships. We have been good parents, and she makes us exceptionally proud. Our daughter has good friends. She is invested in her community, and cares about other people. But, by the standards in this world of the uber-privileged, she is just a normal kid – a really good, normal kid. She does not get the best grades in her class, which she will willingly tell you. And she is no star athlete. Mind you, we still think she’s exceptional.

Imagine, then, the swirl of confusion as we have come to realize that all of this, this well-planned, exemplary childhood, may not be enough! This child, our beautiful, smart, hard-working child, is average, at least in the eyes of some college admissions professionals. It’s true that we know she will go to college, somewhere, and more importantly that she will grow to become a fantastic adult with a real appetite for learning and personal growth. But we can no longer promise her every door will be open for her. This is the first time in her life, and in our life with her, that we cannot offer her full access to the next steps.

What has happened is no tragedy. It is simply the realization that “really good” isn’t always good enough to get you in every door. This is never more true than when the doors they are knocking on are the prestigious colleges and universities we parents assumed our children would attend.  “Naviance,” a web-based software product used by high schools to aid their upperclassmen in the college application process, tells us that the profile for the typical accepted students at Harvard, Yale and Stanford, three universities with acceptance rates of 7 or 8%, include SAT scores in the range of 2100-2400. Average GPAs hover around the 4.0+ mark. In the world where these kids live and go to school, some of their classmates will get these scores.  But not many of them.

At the proverbial end of the day, when we are being really honest, I’m not sure if my anxiety is for Emily—that she will not be able to get into that first-choice school; or for me – that my own vanity will be exposed. We have wanted our daughter to achieve the highest level of success at every step of her young life. How much of this ambition has been for her, and how much for us?  These are the things that make me look old from the furrow that worry leaves in my brow. So now, in the early days of spring, I make my resolutions. I resolve to leave her alone about the college process.  I resolve to celebrate the really fantastic person she is, and is becoming. I resolve that I will not listen to the hushed conversations of parents along the soccer fields and concert rows during the rest of junior and senior years. And I resolve that, at least in our little world, we will make sure our really good, normal kid knows we think she is the best.

Elizabeth Frederick is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the writer’s children.

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