Tuesday, January 13, 2009

five for the pike: the best schools in the nation . . .

The lobby of the new Galway Elementary School, which has been closed for renovations since the fall of 2007.

Yours truly was able to get V.I.P. passes (via his little brother) to Galway Elementary School's Open House last week, where they unveiled their newly-renovated campus in Calverton. (Yeah, blogging really does have its perks.) But are those nice, white walls and that inexplicably tall railing enough to earn Galway and the rest of Maryland's public schools the title of best in the nation? I don't know, but here's what my best schools in the nation would have:

- High design. If a school doesn't look like an assortment of kitchen appliances, why even bother? Super-famous architect Michael Graves is super-famous at assorting kitchen appliances into schools, as he did with the St. Coletta School on Capitol Hill.

- A curriculum that teaches parking-meter literacy. And the proper grounds for writing into a newspaper, I guess, because in a 21st-century world students should know to complain about your parking tickets on Facebook.

- More effective screening of "gifted" students. Time to be serious again. A recent report says that MoCo's gifted-and-talented programs favor affluent, white or Asian students - rewarding their educational advantages while ignoring the "potential" of poorer or minority students, according to one expert. As one of three students of color in the GT program at Barnsley Elementary thirteen years ago, I can attest to that, having drowned in a pool of tutor-and-HGH-powered little shits from Bethesda and Potomac. (Not that I'm bitter or anything, of course.)

Galway's two-story high media center.

Buying beds for sleepy students. Broad Acres Elementary School in Oakview has taken a "no-prisoners" approach to educating their immigrant-heavy student body, even buying a bed for a kid who napped in class. I figure many families can afford to give their children beds, and most schools probably can't afford to provide sleeping arrangements, so we'll just have to settle for . . .

Later start times. This fall, Fairfax County plans to start high schools over an hour later after parents pushed to give their cranky teenaged offspring more sleep time. MCPS has repeatedly rejected any proposals for later start times, citing the difficulty of re-routing school buses. Having spent four years waking up in the dark to get to school at 7:25, I'm sure the sixteen-year-old me would've appreciated it - though, with Fairfax middle schools opening at 9:40, you can't help but wonder what the pre-teen set, still geared towards waking up early, would do with all this newfound morning free time:

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