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Annandale, Virginia
Social Studies teacher with 2 years experience as a substitute, 1 year as a student teacher, and 6 years of volunteer work in various roles. I specialize in differentiated instruction, data driven curriculum, and authentic assessment. A New York State certified teacher, I graduated from Fordham University with an MST degree and high accolades. Finally, I hold membership with Kappa Delta Pi and NCSS as well. It is my intention to grow student confidence and widen content knowledge for students of all backgrounds, cultures and abilities through modeling literacy comprehension, critical thinking and communication skills. I believe each and every student is a valuable asset to the learning community, capable of achieving academic success. I am able to lead these young people to such success. Please click on the links on the right to learn more. You can also email me at I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

House Passes Climate Change Bill

by David Welna and Melissa Block
All Things Considered, June 26, 2009
NPR Online

The vote on a historic bill to fight global warming passed by just a seven-vote margin. The measure sets up a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage greater use of clean energy.

In a triumph for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.

The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

At the White House, Obama said the bill would create jobs and added that with its vote, the House had put America on a path leading the way toward "creating a 21st century global economy."

The House's action fulfilled Speaker Nancy Pelosi's vow to clear major energy legislation before July 4. It also sent the measure to a highly uncertain fate in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was "hopeful that the Senate will be able to debate and pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall."

Obama lobbied recalcitrant Democrats by phone from the White House as the House debate unfolded across several hours, and Al Gore posted a statement on his Web site saying the measure represents "an essential first step towards solving the climate crisis." The former vice president won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work drawing attention to the destructive potential of global warming.

On the House floor, Democrats hailed the legislation as historic, while Republicans said it would damage the economy without solving the nation's energy woes.

It is "the most important energy and environmental legislation in the history of our country," said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. "It sets a new course for our country, one that steers us away from foreign oil and toward a path of clean American energy."

But Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a "defining bill." He called it a "bureaucratic nightmare" that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

The legislation would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by mid-century. That was slightly more aggressive than Obama originally wanted, 14 percent by 2020 and the same 80 percent by midcentury.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits.

Under the bill, the government would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters. Most of the allowances would be given away, but about 15 percent would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower-income individuals and families.

"Some would like to do more. Some would like to do less," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in advance of the final vote. "But we have reached a compromise ... and it is a compromise that can pass this House, pass that Senate, be signed by the president and become law and make progress."

That seemed unlikely, judging from Reid's cautiously worded statement. "The bill is not perfect," it said, but rather "a good product" for the Senate to begin working on.

And there was plenty to work on in a House-passed measure that pointed toward higher electricity bills for the middle class, particularly in the Midwest and South, as well as steps to ease the way for construction of new nuclear reactors, the first to be built since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979.

The bill's controversy was on display in the House, where only eight Republicans joined 211 Democrats in favor, while 44 Democrats joined 168 Republicans in opposition. And within an hour of the vote, both party campaign committees had begun attacking lawmakers for their votes.

One of the biggest compromises involved the near total elimination of an administration plan to sell pollution permits and raise more than $600 billion over a decade — money to finance continuation of a middle class tax cut. About 85 percent of the permits are to be given away rather than sold, a concession to energy companies and their allies in the House — and even that is uncertain to survive in the Senate.

The final bill also contained concessions to satisfy farm-state lawmakers, ethanol producers, hydroelectric advocates, the nuclear industry and others, some of them so late that they were not made public until 3 a.m. on Friday.

Supporters and opponents agreed the bill's result would be higher energy costs but disagreed vigorously on the impact on consumers. Democrats pointed to two reports — one from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the other from the Environmental Protection Agency — that suggested average increases would be limited after tax credits and rebates were taken into account. The CBO estimated the bill would cost an average household $175 a year, the EPA $80 to $110 a year.

Republicans questioned the validity of the CBO study and noted that even that analysis showed actual energy production costs increasing $770 per household. Industry groups have cited other studies showing much higher costs to the economy and to individuals.

The White House and congressional Democrats argued the bill would create millions of "green jobs" as the nation shifts to greater reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and development of more fuel-efficient vehicles — and away from use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

It will "make our nation the world leader on clean energy jobs and technology," declared Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who negotiated deals with dozens of lawmakers in recent weeks to broaden the bill's support.

Pelosi, D-Calif., took an intense personal interest in the measure, sitting through hours of meetings with members of the rank and file and nurturing fragile compromises.

At its heart, the bill was a trade-off, less than the White House initially sought though it was more than Republicans said was acceptable. Some of the dealmaking had a distinct political feel.

Rep. Alan Grayson, a first-term Democrat, won a pledge of support that $50 million from the proceeds of pollution permit sales in the bill would go to a proposed new hurricane research facility in his district in Orlando, Fla.

In the run-up to the vote, Democrats left little to chance.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to an administration post, put off her resignation from Congress until after the final vote on the climate change bill.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who has been undergoing treatment at an undisclosed facility, returned to the Capitol to support the legislation. He has said he struggles with depression, alcoholism and addiction, but has not specified the cause for his most recent absence.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Longer Letting Scores Separate Pupils

Published: June 14, 2009

STAMFORD, Conn. — Sixth graders at Cloonan Middle School here are assigned numbers based on their previous year’s standardized test scores — zeros indicate the highest performers, ones the middle, twos the lowest — that determine their academic classes for the next three years.

But this longstanding system for tracking children by academic ability for more effective teaching evolved into an uncomfortable caste system in which students were largely segregated by race and socioeconomic background, both inside and outside classrooms. Black and Hispanic students, for example, make up 46 percent of this year’s sixth grade, but are 78 percent of the twos and 7 percent of the zeros.

So in an unusual experiment, Cloonan mixed up its sixth-grade science and social studies classes last month, combining zeros and ones with twos. These mixed-ability classes have reported fewer behavior problems and better grades for struggling students, but have also drawn complaints of boredom from some high-performing students who say they are not learning as much.

The results illustrate the challenge facing this 15,000-student district just outside New York City, which is among the last bastions of rigid educational tracking more than a decade after most school districts abandoned the practice. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Stamford sorted students into as many as 15 different levels; the current system of three to five levels at each of four middle schools will be replaced this fall by a two-tiered model, in which the top quarter of sixth graders will be enrolled in honors classes, the rest in college-prep classes. (A fifth middle school is a magnet school and has no tracking.)

More than 300 Stamford parents have signed a petition opposing the shift, and some say they are now considering moving or switching their children to private schools. “I think this is a terrible system for our community,” said Nicole Zussman, a mother of two.

Ms. Zussman and others contend that Stamford’s diversity, with poor urban neighborhoods and wealthy suburban enclaves, demands multiple academic tracks, and suggest that the district could make the system fairer and more flexible by testing students more frequently for movement among the levels.

But Joshua P. Starr, the Stamford superintendent, said the tracking system has failed to prepare children in the lower levels for high school and college. “There are certainly people who want to maintain the status quo because some people have benefited from the status quo,” he said. “I know that we cannot afford that anymore. It’s not fair to too many kids.”

Educators have debated for decades how to best divide students into classes. Some school districts focus on providing extra instruction to low achievers or developing so-called gifted programs for the brightest students, but few maintain tracking like Stamford’s middle schools (tracking is less comprehensive and rigid at the town’s elementary and high schools).

Deborah Kasak, executive director of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, said research is showing that all students benefit from mixed-ability classes. “We see improvements in student behavior, academic performance and teaching, and all that positively affects school culture,” she said.

Daria Hall, a director with Education Trust, an advocacy group, said that tracking has worsened the situation by funneling poor and minority students into “low-level and watered-down courses.” “If all we expect of students is for them to watch movies and fill out worksheets, then that’s what they will give us,” she said.

In Stamford, black and Hispanic student performance on state tests has lagged significantly behind that of Asians and whites. In 2008, 98 percent of Asian students and 92 percent of white students in grades three to eight passed math, and 93 percent and 88 percent reading, respectively. Among black students, 63 percent passed math, and 56 percent reading; among Hispanic students, 74 percent passed math and 60 percent reading.

The district plans to keep a top honors level, but put the majority of students in mixed-ability classes, expanding the new system from sixth grade to seventh and eighth over three years. While the old system tracked students for all subjects based on math and English scores, the new one will allow students to be designated for honors in one subject but not necessarily another, making more students overall eligible for the upper track.

The staff of Cloonan Middle School decided to experiment with mixed-ability classes for the last eight weeks of this school year.

David Rudolph, Cloonan’s principal, said that parents have long complained that the tracking numbers assigned to students dictate not only their classes but also their friends and cafeteria cliques. Every summer, at least a dozen parents lobby Mr. Rudolph to move their children to the top track. “The zero group is all about status,” he said.

Jamiya Richardson, who is 11 and in the twos’ group, said that students all know their own numbers as well as those of their classmates. “I don’t like being classified because it makes you feel like you’re not smart,” she said.

The other day in Jamiya’s newly mixed social studies class, students debated who was to blame in an ancient Roman legal case in which a barber shaving a slave in a public square was hit by a ball and cut the slave’s throat. At one point, Jamiya was the only one in the class of 25 to argue that it was the slave’s fault because he sat there at his own risk — which the teacher said was the right answer.

Cloonan teachers say they had not changed the curriculum or slowed the pace for the mixed-ability classrooms, but tried to do more collaborative projects and discussions in hopes that students would learn from one another. But Joel Castle, who is 12 and a zero, said that he did not work as hard now. “My grades are going up, and that’s not really surprising because the standards have been lowered,” he said.

In a recent social studies class, the top students stood out as they presented elaborate homemade projects about Roman culture — mosaics, dresses, weaponry — while several of their classmates showed up empty-handed. One offered the excuse that his catapult had disappeared overnight from his bedside.

“A catapult thief?” questioned the teacher, Mimi Nichols, in disbelief before directing him to find his project by the next day.

Afterward, Ms. Nichols said that the less-motivated students had still learned from their classmates’ example. “That in itself is valuable,” she said. “For children to see what is possible.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Schools 'too safe' teachers say

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Nearly half of teachers questioned for a survey believe the health and safety culture in schools is damaging children's learning.
When questioned by Teachers TV, teachers complained about a five-page briefing on using glue sticks and being told to wear goggles to put up posters.

Others said pupils were not allowed to enjoy the sun or snow without taking health and safety precautions.

Teachers TV surveyed 585 subscribers to the channel by questionnaire.

Around 45% of those who took part thought health and safety precautions had a negative effect on teachers, as well as on students' personal development and learning.

However, 45% said they did not think health and safety regulations were too restrictive.

And just over 10% of teachers surveyed thought accidents in schools had increased during the last five years.

The teachers were also asked about general safety - their own and that of their pupils.

More than half of those who responded - 56% - said they had had to deal with a situation where they suspected a child was being abused.

More than two in five said they were afraid to be alone in a room with a pupil in case they were falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Just under a third of respondents said they were under-prepared in this area.

Questions regarding weapons checks in schools appeared to divide teachers.

Exactly half said they favoured weapons checks in schools and half opposed it.

Chief executive of Teachers TV Andrew Bethell said: "The more extreme examples [of health and safety] are thankfully not the norm but schools still need to take into consideration the workforce's concerns when trying to protect pupils.

"It is worrying that almost a third of the education workforce feel under-prepared to deal with the very complicated issues surrounding abuse and potential abuse."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pilot Dies Flying Plane to the US

June 18, 2009

"The captain of Continental Airlines flight 61 has died while flying the plane from Brussels to New York.
The plane made an emergency landing at Newark Liberty International Airport shortly before 1200 (1600 GMT).
Two co-pilot was in control of the plane, according to Federal Aviation Authority spokeswoman, Arlene Salac, quoted by the Associated Press.

The captain apparently died of natural causes, a Continental Airlines spokesman told CNN.
He was a 61-year-old man with more than 20 years of service to the airline, a spokesman for the airline said.
The plane is a Boeing 777 carrying 247 passengers."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Political Tiff Blocks D.C. School Reforms

Will the corruption in the Washington, DC Public School District system ever disappear. Mayor Adrian Fenty et. al are really trying to reform the education system of our nation's capital, but a council of personal agenda stands in the way. Read more in this May 21, 2009 article by Marc Fisher of Washington Post Online at:

Assessment Overview: Beyond Standardized Testing

Assessment Overview: Beyond Standardized Testing

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Larks and Owls: How Sleep Habits Affect Grades

Larks and Owls: How Sleep Habits Affect Grades

One Killed In Shooting At U.S. Holocaust Museum

June 11, 2009

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) -- An elderly man walked into the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and opened fire on security guards, fatally wounding one before two guards returned fire.

Both the assailant and his victim, who was identified as 39-year-old Stephen Johns, were taken to the hospital in serious condition. The wounded guard died a few hours after the attack, according to law enforcement officials.

The U.S. Park Police said the gunman walked into the museum on June 10 carrying a "long gun," and fired on a guard, before being shot by other guards. A law enforcement source said the gunman was shot in the face.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum is near the National Mall in Washington and is one of the capital's most popular tourist attractions. At the time of the shooting, the museum was full, with about 2,000 visitors inside, according to the museum's director, William Parsons.

Law enforcement authorities have declined to identify the gunman, but several media outlets, including the Associated Press, have identified him as 88-year-old James von Brunn.

Von Brunn has a racist, anti-Semitic website called and wrote a book called "Kill the Best Gentile."

Local media quoted police as saying that they also found a notebook in von Brunn's possession that lists other possible targets.

Joseph Persichini, assistant director in charge of the Washington FBI field office, said a team had been dispatched to the suspect's home to check his computer. He said they are investigating this as a possible hate crime or domestic terrorism.

In 1983, Von Brunn was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested two years earlier outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife, and sawed-off shotgun.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Jonathan Peled, said: "We are shocked and saddened by today's shooting incident at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The Embassy of Israel condemns this attack and is closely following the situation."

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama was "saddened" by reports of the shooting. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI is providing the president with updates on the situation, Gibbs said.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic acts have been declining in the United States. In 2008, there were 1,352 incidents of vandalism, harassment, and physical assault against Jewish individuals, property, and community institutions. That number represents a decline of 7 percent from 2007.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum has heavy security and all visitors have to pass through metal detectors and have their bags screened.

The museum receives approximately 1.7 million visitors annually. Staff said the museum will be closed on June 11 and its flags will fly at half-staff.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Paterson Outraged, But Powerless

June 8, 2009
By Elizabeth Benjamin for The Daily Politics, New York Daily News

Gov. David Paterson finally broke his silence about today's Senate coup, holding a Red Room press conference at 8:15 p.m. this evening to denounce the GOP and their Democratic accomplices and declare his support for Malcolm Smith.
"The actions taken on the senate floor today need to be exposed for what they are, an unnecessary distraction to government, dressed up in the cloak - falsely - of reform and good government," Paterson said in a statement.

"...I don’t care if I am the only one standing, but someone has got to stand up and say that this is wrong."
Paterson went on like this for some time, using punchy words like "outrage," "dysfunction" and "dereliction of duty." He chastised the Senate Republicans, saying: "The last two weeks of session is not the time when we conduct campaigns."
The governor also pledged to New Yorkers that he would "not allow this to go on much further." But when he was pressed during the post-statement Q-And-A with reporters, including the DN's Glenn Blain (who sent the quotes), Paterson readily allowed that there's not much he can actually do.
"I have no way to actually dictate the process other than to use this forum to express my feelings about it, not as much as a governor but as a citizen of the state," he said.

Paterson said he would work with whoever is legally designated majority leader, but stressed that he still considers Smith - not Dean Skelos - to be the bearer of that title.
He added: "I encourage them to come to the table and work it out so they can agree who the majority leader of the Senate is because the people need us to get to the other issues."

Read more:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Remembering D-Day: 65 Years Later

On June 6, 1944, Troops stormed Omaha Beach on the Norman coast of France in an attempt to squelch the Axis powers. My grandfather, Floyd Elmer Smith (1917-1963)--or Smitty as his friends knew him, was there as a member of the US Coast Guard. Living here in Staten Island, just blocks from the military base where he was stationed in 1943 while my mom was born, I can't help but be reminded of the brave relative I never had the honor of meeting. Many other proud Americans have their own "Grandpa Smitty" to think back on with fond memories this day. Today is their day!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

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