Thursday, December 15, 2011

Announcements from around Prince George's County, MD and Beyond

Happy Holidays!

In this message you will find announcements about:

· Prince George’s County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) public meeting on December 13, 2011 to discuss the Purple Line Light Rail Transit (TONIGHT @ 6:30 PM)

· 2011 Holiday Basketball Camp - Lake Arbor Community Center – December 27, 2011 – December 30, 2011 (information below & flyer attached)

· Ardmore Elementary School’s Request for Judges for their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Science Fair on January 19, 2012 . Judge attendance confirmation needed by January 6, 2012. (see letter attached for details & contact information)

· Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet ($) on January 15, 2012 with keynote speaker: Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. (flyer with ticket information attached)

· SPEAK! Oratory League 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratory Competition on January 16, 2012 (flyer attached)

· The 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast will be held on Monday, January 16, 2012. with keynote speaker: Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown

· Maryland State Department of Education Press Release: MARYLAND PARENT INVOLVEMENT MATTERS AWARD PROGRAM ISSUES CALL FOR 2012 NOMINATIONS. Nominations must be postmarked by January 31, 2012.

· The American Society of Interior Designers Foundation’s (ASID) announcement of 2012 scholarships and awards. All applications are due by March 12, 2012. (Scroll down for further information)

Governor O’Malley Appoints Nakia Ngwala to Maryland Citizens Review Board for Children

Springdale, MD December 13, 2011: Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Nakia T. Ngwala as a member of the Prince George’s County Citizens’ Review Board for Children Number Seven for a term of four years from July 1, 2011.

The Citizen Review Board for Children (CRBC) reviews cases of children in foster care to evaluate what progress has been made towards their permanent placement. Cases are reviewed in pursuant to priorities established by the Prince George's County Department of Social Services and the State Citizens Review Board for Children and contained in a memorandum of agreement. For each child reviewed, a recommendation is sent to the County Department of Social Services and the local juvenile court. With concurrence of the Social Services Administration, the State Board may establish categories of foster children for whom a satisfactory permanent arrangement has been made and who may be exempt from local review. The children’s legislative action committee (CLAC) is the legislative committee under the authority of State Board charged with implementing CRBC’s legislative agenda.

Each local review board has seven members. They are appointed by the Governor to four-year terms in accordance with Code Family Law Article, secs. 5-540 through 5-547.

Nakia T. Ngwala is a public servant and a published columnist who has written subjects on economic development and education. Her articles have been published in The Sentinel, the Gazette, the Bowie-Blade, and the Baltimore Sun newspapers. She is one of the pioneers who pushed for the creation of a Preschool Task Force in Prince George’s County. She is the former President of the Ardmore-Springdale Civic Association (ASCA); Chair of the Bellehaven Action Plan Committee; Member of the United States 2010 Census Complete Count Committee in Prince George’s County; Enterprise Woods Community Liaison for the Art in Public Places, Public Art Project Advisory Committee, Prince George’s County; Committee Member/Community Liaison for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System Steering Committee. She currently serves as Chair of the Civic Engagement Committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Prince George’s County. She lives in Springdale with husband Mayi Ngwala and their two sons.

For more information about CRBC, please visit

Schwartz selected as senior vice president by national association

Schwartz selected as senior vice president by national association

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As community colleges work to develop a national road map to guide their work into a new era of change and work to answer President Obama's call to raise college graduation rates, they will need skilled leadership and support. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has selected Dr. Gail M. Schwartz as senior vice president for academic, innovation and student success to help lead that effort.


"I am thrilled to assume this role during this extraordinarily exciting time for community colleges," said Schwartz. "I look forward to working with President Bumphus, the 21st Century Commission and the association's membership, as we work toward meeting the President's 2020 completion goal."

Schwartz comes to AACC from the U.S. Department of Education, where she has served as senior advisor for community colleges since 2006 within the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. She crafted a vision for the department's community college outreach and led efforts on student access, completion and retention issues.

She also served as director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education at the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education. She administered the $1.1 billion Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education State Grant Program. She also served as the director of the Discretionary Programs and Innovation Group, as director of the New American High Schools Initiative and director of the Office of Correctional Education.

From 1983-1990, Schwartz served as project director and faculty at George Washington University, where she designed graduate-level teacher training curriculum, taught graduate level courses, coordinated interdisciplinary programs and managed federal grants.

She worked as the training and staff development coordinator for the District of Columbia Department of Human Services Youth Services Administration and as diagnostic team coordinator and instructor. She also worked as vocational development coordinator for Prince George's County Maryland Public Schools.

Schwartz earned a doctorate in education in 1989 and a master of arts degree in special education in 1983 from George Washington University. She earned her bachelor of science degree at Ohio State University.

AACC President and CEO Walter G. Bumphus, who assumed leadership of the association last January, says the addition to his senior leadership team reflects the growing importance and visibility of community colleges. "Community colleges are increasingly regarded as central players in U.S. economic recovery and global competitiveness. Dr. Schwartz understands our colleges and will bring solid experience and dynamic leadership to our work."

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Association of Community Colleges is the leading advocacy organization representing close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges nationwide. Community colleges are the largest sector of higher education, enrolling more than 13 million credit and non-credit students each year. To learn more about the AACC, visit

SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Obama, Family Attend 'Christmas In Washington'

WASHINGTON -- The Obamas celebrated the holiday season with musical stars Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and the Band Perry at the 30th annual "Christmas in Washington" concert Sunday night.

President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson attended the concert to benefit the Children's National Medical Center.

The concert of Christmas carols and songs_ which took place at the National Building Museum_ was hosted by comedian Conan O'Brien.

In honor of the "season to celebrate miracles," Obama spoke about the story of Jesus' birth during his brief remarks to the crowd.

He said the story of Jesus Christ has changed the world by teaching basic values such as loving one another, helping and serving the less fortunate, forgiving, drawing closer to family, being grateful and keeping faith.

"Those are values that are shared by all faiths," Obama said. "So tonight let us all rededicate ourselves to each other, and in that spirit, from my family to yours: Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America."

Before the concert, the Obamas greeted patients of the children's medical center dressed as elves and presented them with a basket of children's books. Obama playfully struggled to lift the basket and asked the elves to help him place it under a Christmas tree.

Other entertainers included the United States Naval Academy Glee Club, Washington Youth Choir, American Family Choir, United States Army Band Herald Trumpets, Ian Fraser and the Christmas in Washington Orchestra.

The concert will air Friday on TNT.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS)

Prince George's County Public Schools recently announced their e-alert enrollment has reached 70,000. We are encouraging all members of the network who have not enrolled in PGCPS' e-alert program to do so quickly. This is a great way to stay informed.

Below, find the information regarding how to enroll.

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) announced today a record-high enrollment of 69,868 in its new e-Alert system. The enrollment campaign goal was 50,000 by Jan. 1. However, as a result of an aggressive marketing campaign, the school district easily surpassed the goal. The e-Alert system made its official debut in November.

Parents, students, employees and community members can get real-time information by clicking on the PGCPS Alerts button on the school system’s website ( Alerts can be sent to a cell phone or an email address.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our students,” said Superintendent of Schools William R. Hite Jr. “This system allows us to communicate emergency information faster and keep the public informed about the latest events taking place in our school district.”
For more information about this topic, visit

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award

The Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award

Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award Program Issues Call For 2012 Nominations

The Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award (PIMA) program is the first of its kind in the nation to shine a spotlight on parents and those with legal responsibility for a child who have had a positive impact on public schools and to encourage all parents to get involved in whatever way they can. The slogan is Choose Your Seat, Get Involved.

Shawna CapotostoShawna Capotosto Named 2011 Statewide Winner Of Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award

Video: 2011 Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award, May 20, 2011
The 2011 Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award celebrates parents from across the state who give their time and effort to better schools. See the winners from each district across Maryland at the gala in Anne Arundel County, and celebrate the statewide honoree, Shawna Capotosto from Frederick County!

2011 Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award Semifinalists

Contact Information

Maryland State Department of Education
Division of Student, Family, and School Services
Program Improvement and Family Support Branch
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-767-0286

Thursday, December 8, 2011

SPEAK! seeking 2nd-college level orators to honor the legacy of Dr. King at oratory competition

Nonprofit Public Speaking Organization to Host 2012 Student Oratory Competition in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

BOWIE, MD – SPEAK! MD Oratory League, Inc. is challenging area students from VA, MD and DC in grades 2 through college to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by presenting excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches (Grades 2-5) and original oratory based on grade appropriate pre-selected questions (Grades 6 - college). Orators will participate in the second annual Dr. MLK Oratory Competition on Monday, January 16, 2012 at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly, MD at 1 p.m.

Community/business leaders have volunteered to judge the orator’s presentations. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners at each level – elementary, middle school, high school and college - will earn cash awards sponsored by Paper Tiger of Alexandria, VA, The Links of Prince Georges County, MD, Attorney Vanessa Scott of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan LLP of Washington, DC, and Frontline Security Services of Landover, MD.
We are grateful to have Mrs. Edith Johnson, Vice President of E.M. Johnson and Associates, an architectural firm in Washington, DC serve as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the SPEAK! 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratory Competition – the premier event for young people to honor the legacy of Dr. King.

To learn more about SPEAK! MD Oratory League, Inc., please, call 1-877-773-2530 or visit the SPEAK! website at

WE challenge the community to be a supportive audience for our young orators. Tickets to this event may also be purchased online. SPEAK!, SPEAK!, SPEAK!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Hi. My name is Kimberly and I am a helicopter mom.

Hi, Kimberly.

By definition, a helicopter mom is a parent who hovers over her children and becomes too involved in their lives. I confess: this revelation was no surprise. What was surprising, however, is how hovering over my children has made them dependent on me in ways where independence is the norm. As the product of a stay-at-home mom, it was my destiny to follow suit. So for close to ten years, I basked in that position; when I returned to the workforce, I witnessed my enabling.

Recently over breakfast with my family, we engaged in our usual round table discussion. After taking care of business about school, calendar events, and chores, the dialogue shifted and each child had their say. While my daughter mapped out her wish list of places to go, people to see, and things to do, my sons honestly shared that I was “doing too much.”

That expression is the most common of vernacular amongst our youth today. “Doing too much” has different contextual meanings. The following are all such examples:

· Becoming a flash mob of one in an aisle at Target as I sing Fame and my children look the other way;

· Tickling my son while he’s trying to play the Wii;

· Spotting a French speaking security guard in the grocery store, telling him my son speaks

French, too, and encouraging the two to converse.

Simply put, my sons craved just a little space. They needed me to trust my expectations will be met without the consistent reminders laced with frustration. They wanted to spread their wings and fly, not have them clipped. So, I obliged and for seven consecutive days I stopped “doing too much.”

Letting go, albeit briefly, was truly an art. It required me to relax, relate, and release so my sons could…breathe. The move was so spontaneous it left me with very little time to give my game plan thought. Yet, I kept moving forward and developed my approach around these three important components:

1. Believe. Every decision begins with a thought. I had to believe I was capable of letting go. I had to believe that, even if they found themselves at a cross roads, they would employ their internal GPS and navigate themselves accurately.
2. Trust. By hovering over my children, I demonstrated a certain lack of trust. All things considered, the tasks assigned were not foreign. They’ve demonstrated responsibility in the past. Why not trust them to go forth in like manner?
3. Shift. Less hovering equates with more time on my hands. My newfound freedom caused me to shift my attention to tasks I’ve left incomplete. I even managed to get in much needed “Mom-me” time. I never knew a 2005 movie could be so good!

The insight I gained is too numerous to name. So, let’s just say this helicopter mom has landed.

Kimberly K. Parker is the President and CEO of Writing Momma Publishing, LLC ( On December 10, 2011, she is hosting a workshop on effective essay writing at People’s Community Church in Washington, DC. Visit a click on the “Writing Program” tab for more information. Kimberly is a ghostwriter, author, publisher, and blogger living in Maryland with her husband and three children.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighs in on supercommittee failure: School programs at risk

The failure of the here today, gone tomorrow congressional supercommittee could lead to drastic cuts to education programs nationwide, according to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

This week, the bipartisan supercommittee -- formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- announced that it had failed to combat the country's $15 trillion debt.

"I join the President in his disappointment that the supercommittee has failed to reach a final deal," Duncan said in a statement. "We must reduce America's debt. But we must do so in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time. Because the supercommittee failed to live up to its responsibility, education programs that affect young Americans across the country now face across-the-board cuts.

"We need to ensure that every child has access to a good teacher and a high quality public education, and that students who want to pursue a college degree can count on federal loans and grants to help them achieve their dreams," he added. "That requires Congress to do some important work in the coming weeks and to show some real leadership. I stand ready to work with them, and I know the President does as well."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Men Make a Difference Day

Men Make a Difference Day

Posted on October 10, 2011

This has nothing to do with World Languages, but I want to share it with you because it is fantastic!!

Today, our school celebrated Men Make A Difference Day. This is a day created by Dr. Michael A. Robinson, CEO of Forest of the Rain Productions. According to Dr. Robinson, the goal of the day is to create parental engagement among men. There is some good information about this event on this page on EventBrite. Our school is always looking for new ways to engage our students’ families, so we are so thankful for this excellent idea!

Our students were encouraged to invite their fathers (or another important male figure–grandfather, uncle, neighbor, etc.) to school with them for the morning. Any man that wanted to participate had to sign a contract that said that he would be at school for the morning of 10/10/11, would attend one parent/teacher conference, and several other things that I have forgotten (one might have been helping with homework or attending a sporting/music event with his child). I’m not sure what our final participation was, but it was so many that we ran out of room in the breakfast room that we had prepared!

The men were served breakfast (a delicious breakfast with bacon that smelled up the entire school, torturing my pregnant nose!) during first period, and then attended their child’s second period class with their son or daughter. They also had a photo taken together during the breakfast which they were able to pick up before they left for the morning. I had 10 dads in my second period class of 32 students!! How awesome is that! It was so much fun to watch the kids watch their dads try to follow along and participate, and it was great exposure for World Languages–I made sure to plan today as a storytelling day What an excellent way for dads to have insight into the challenges that their children face at school, and for their children to see how much they mean to their dads that they would spend a morning with them and commit to spending more time investing in their education in the future.

I would encourage you to organize some celebration of Men Make a Difference Day for your school next year! It works well for our school because we have class on Columbus Day, but if you are among the lucky ones to have a day off, perhaps you can celebrate it at another time.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kimberly K. Parker: THE POWER OF ONE WORD

Time was of the essence this morning as I prepared for work. I knew that in order to make it out of the house chop-chop (quickly, right away), I had to pick up the pace. There was literally not a moment to spare because tardiness brings about a bit of anxiety (uneasiness, concern).

It took me a moment to accept my outfit. Although I was not convinced I chose the right two-piece for the day, I gave myself a big “high-five” and celebrated the final touches. I smiled, looked in the mirror, pointed to myself and said, “You’re not going to be late today, Queen!”

Just as I turned to exit the bathroom, there stood my baby boy, Kalonji. It was obvious he had just arisen (got up, awakened); he appeared to be a bit transfixed (motionless, awe struck). I could not tell if he was partially sleep, in a heavy day dream, or asking himself, “What is Momma wearing today?” Before I had an opportunity to inquire (ask, investigate) if he was well, he simply said “Wow!” as he took note of my jewelry matching my outfit.

What a nice way to enhance my day…especially since I had second thoughts about my attire just moments before. With just one word, Kalonji added a little bit more pep to my step. I gave him a tight hug, grabbed my purse, and made my way out of the house. Oh — did I mention I arrived to work on time? Sometimes, all it takes is just one word to put a smile on a persons face. If I may, I’d like to offer a list of words…from A to Z…that is laced with lots of power:

Magnificent Nice

What one word will you choose to add a little pep to someone’s step? I’d really like to know. Let’s keep it moving and make their day!

Kimberly K. Parker is the President and CEO of Writing Momma Publishing, LLC ( This past summer, her company published three books for young authors age nine to nineteen! This fall, she will host “Write On!” an eight week writing program for youth and she is currently looking for a few young writers who want to participate. Visit for more information. Kimberly is a ghostwriter, author and blogger living in Maryland with her husband and three children.

PGCPS has introduced its e-alert system

PGCPS has introduced its e-alert system as a way to enhance communication to its staff, community members and more importantly parents and family. The staff of Parental Engagement with PGCPS appalaud the efforts of the BOE to improve communication between home, community and schools.

The new systems will provide emergency alerts, newsletters and information regarding upcoming events and activities to all who sign up.

To sign up, visit and click the PGCPS Alerts Text and Email button.

For more information, contact senior web specialist Max Pugh at 301-952-6002 or

Change to funding formula gives principals spending power

By: Lisa Gartner

Principals in Prince George's County Public Schools set the course for their campuses -- but only have say over 2 percent of the school's budget. That figure would jump to 50 percent under a proposal from Superintendent William Hite.The primary goal of the new plan is to "weight" funding coming from central office to schools, based on at-risk populations and high-need classrooms. But another prong allows principals, once they receive these weighted funds, much more discretion over how to spend them. They can't paint the walls hot pink or cut vegetables from the school menu, but principals could make decisions about whether to beef up the English department or hire more math instructors.Traditionally, county schools have received central-office dollars based on student enrollment and staffing ratios.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Friday, November 11, 2011

PGCPS 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year Spotlighted in Black Enterprise

Greetings Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators,

“Education is the great equalizer” (I. McPhail, 2001).

Perhaps no greater words have been spoken with regards to the value, importance, and significance of education. However, the great equalizer that Dr. Irving McPhail reference is now facing a myriad of challenges. One looming challenge is the state of the teaching profession, more specifically the number of males entering teaching. There has been a major emphasis on the shortage of African American male teachers. As you know, Forest Of The Rain Productions has been a leading voice on the importance of increasing the number of African American male teachers. Thus the impetus for our national initiative Men Make A Difference Day, our radio discussions and our television interviews with seminal researchers in the area of male teacher recruitment.

The African American male teacher makes up less than 2% of the teaching profession. While increasing the African American male teachers will not end all that ails the educational systems across America, their presence can send a message to all young learners that teaching is profession worthy of your consideration.

There is a great article on the state of education and the need to create a new type of teaching workforce. The article features Mr. Will Thomas, PGCPS 2009-2010 “Teacher of the Year”. Mr. Thomas’ article appears in the November edition of Black Enterprise. Please read and enjoy.

If you are interesting in more information regarding the need for African American male teachers, please visit the links below.

Two Thinkers: The Importance of the African American Male Teacher
Dr. Ivory Toldson, Howard University
Dr. Roy Jones, Clemson University

African American Men in the Classroom

2nd Annual Thanksgiving Basket Outreach

2nd Annual Thanksgiving Basket Outreach

Parent Engagement: A Paradigm Shift

By Stephen Sawchuk on November 1, 2011

Can you improve parental involvement by making engagement with parents part of a teacher's formal duties? A handful of districts are giving it a try in Idaho, according to an interesting story from the Associated Press.

To comply with a new state law, every district had to implement a differentiated pay plan this school year. Many are using guidelines created by the state, AP reports, including consideration of value-added test information.

But several districts, especially in rural locations, are also basing the performance bonuses on whether the teacher engages meaningfully with his or her students' parents.

The plan in Challis, Idaho, requires teachers to make one "general" contact, like a note sent home, and one "personal" contact, in which a parent is informed about how his or her child is performing, over a three-month period.

The state teachers' union is a bit concerned, noting that parental involvement can be limited by factors outside of teachers' control. It opposes the merit-pay program in general.

Parent Engagement: A Paradigm Shift

Written By

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Georgia has proclaimed November as Parent Engagement Month and Nov. 17 as National Parent Engagement Day. Pre-K director and parent involvement coordinator Debby Gilliam says it is important for parents to play an active role in their child’s success in school.

“The parent engage- ment program aims to get parents, schools, families and communities working together to create meaningful partnerships that ultimately lead to significant gains across the board in student achievement,” she said. “We’re looking for parents to join our team.”For information on parent engagement at Pike County schools, call Gilliam at 770-567-4769. Go to and click “Parent Engagement” to find information and tips for staying engaged in your child’s education.For the whole story, read the Nov. 9 print/e-edition of the Pike County Journal Reporter.To subscribe, click here.

Tweet Report

Parental Engagement with PGCPS present Tweet Report: A snapshot of what is being said about parental engagement, Prince George’s County Public Schools and the state of Maryland as it relates to education.

PG Politics @pgpolitics retweeted to 1,079 followers:
I am not sure if it is a violation of the law to take campaign funds from a person who later gets a contract and there was no bid process

pgcpsparents Parents and PGCPS
a study recently released states Prince George's teachers are overpaid. I am not sure I agree with that, you cannot over pay a teacher

pgcpsparents Parents and PGCPS
parental intervention is a more important factor than income and family structure (Jasso, 2007).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Is School Reform?

According to Project Appleseed, a Parents Advocating Challenging Education (PACE) located in St. Louis, Missouri.

School reform is......

Many schools in the United States are in the process of education reform. Changes in school policy are being considered as economic, social, and technological forces make new demands on what students need to know to be successful. This page explains some of the major aspects of education reform and offers parents guidelines for personal involvement. Parent participation is an important part of successful education reform--a process that will affect both parent and child.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Obama Announces Help for Student Loan Borrowers

President Barack Obama recalled his struggles with student loan debt as he unveiled a plan Wednesday that could give millions of young people some relief on their payments. Speaking at the University of Colorado Denver, Obama said that he and his wife, Michelle, together owed more than $120,000 in law school debt that took nearly a decade to pay off. He said that sometimes he'd have to make monthly payments to multiple lenders, and the debt meant they were not only paying for their own degrees but saving for their daughters' college funds simultaneously.

"I've been in your shoes. We did not come from a wealthy family," Obama said to cheers. Obama said it's never been more important to get a college education, but it's also never been more expensive. Obama said his plan will help not just individuals, but the nation, because graduates will have more money to spend on things like buying homes. "Our economy needs it right now and your future could use a boost right now," Obama said.

Obama's plan will accelerate a measure passed by Congress that reduces the maximum required payment on student loans from 15 percent of discretionary income annually to 10 percent. He will put it into effect in 2012, instead of 2014. In addition, the White House says the remaining debt would be forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25. About 1.6 million borrowers could be affected. He will also allow borrowers who have a loan from the Federal Family Education Loan Program and a direct loan from the government to consolidate them into one. The consolidated loan would carry an interest rate of up to a half percentage point less than before. This could affect 5.8 million borrowers.

Student loans are the No. 2 source of household debt. The president's announcement came on the same day as a new report on tuition costs from the College Board. It showed that average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, compared with a year ago. Nationally, the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high.

Student loan debt is a common concern voiced by Occupy Wall Street protesters. Obama's plan could help him shore up re-election support among young voters, an important voting bloc in his 2008 election. But, it might not ease all their fears. Anna Van Pelt, 24, a graduate student in public health at the University of Colorado Denver who attended the speech, estimates she'll graduate with $40,000 in loans. She called Obama's plan a "really big deal" for her, but said she still worries about how she'll make the payments. "By the time I graduate, my interest rate is going to be astronomical, especially when you don't have a job," Van Pelt said. "So it's not just paying the loans back. It's paying the loans back without a job." The White House said the changes will carry no additional costs to taxpayers.

Last year, Congress passed a law that lowered the repayment cap and moved student loans to direct lending by eliminating banks as the middlemen. Before that, borrowers could get loans directly from the government or from the Federal Family Education Loan Program; the latter were issued by private lenders but basically insured by the government. The law was passed along with the health care overhaul with the anticipation that it could save about $60 billion over a decade.

The change in the law was opposed by many Republicans. At a hearing Tuesday, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs a subcommittee with oversight over higher education, said it had resulted in poorer customer service for borrowers. And Senate Republicans issued a news release with a compilation of headlines that showed thousands of workers in student lending, including those from Sallie Mae Inc., had been laid off because of the change.

Today, there are 23 million borrowers with $490 billion in loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Last year, the Education Department made $102.2 billion in direct loans to 11.5 million recipients.
Hefling reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.

Annual Title I Parent Conference

Annual Title I Parent Conference for parents, educators, and community members.

At this conference, parents and community members will:

  1. Get a better understanding of the Prince George’s County’s Title I Parent Involvement Plan, which is part of the district’s Master Plan;
  2. Participate in workshops on how to work with educators as equal partners; Receieve information on how to support learning at home, work with diverse populations as well as topics such as understanding No Child Left Behind and Title I.

What is Title I ?

Title I is a federally funded program reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB). The purpose of Title I is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and meet challenging state academic standards. The restricted grant funds provide supplementary funding to improve the teaching and learning of children Funds are to be used only for programs that supplement, and do not supplant, the services that would be provided in the absence of these funds.

All Title I schools benefit from centralized program services that include; instructional support, professional development, technology support, and parent involvement initiatives. Schools are required, by law, to develop school-parent compacts that define both school and home responsibilities for improving student achievement.

The conference is taking place at Eleanor Roosevelt HS on Saturday, October 29th from 8am-1pm.

Information Provided By:

Prince George’s County PTA Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 6139
Capitol Heights, Maryland 20790

‘Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize – Our Youth’

Visit Parents and PGCPS at:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders Show Up for Budget Session

Greetings Engaged Parents, Dedicated Educators, and the Informed Community,

As many of you know, yesterday (October 25, 2011) the Superintendent of PGCPS hosted a second public hearing/session on the 2012-2013 school budget. I am happy to report this session saw a dramatic increase in the number of concern citizens, parents, teachers, and community stakeholders in attendance.

I want to commend each of you who took the time out of your schedule to attend the meeting in person or to observe on TV, or via webcast. The superintendent acknowledged this was the largest turnout in his six year tenure for a budget hearing/session.

Throughout the evening speaker after speaker (over 20) passionately talked about educational programs, services, and infrastructural concerns they wanted to see as a priority in this year’s budget process. At one point, citizens in attendance who did not get a chance to speak because they were unable to register due to a technical glitch were extended an opportunity to voice their concerns and priorities for the 2012-2013 budget.

Tonight’s overall theme centered on two major areas, academic enrichment programs such as Music Education and the Arts and Teacher satisfaction. Those speaking in support of music education and arts included parents, teachers and community stakeholders. Anxiety over potential loss of funding for these programs served as a sense of urgency for many. Speakers summarized that the loss of music education and the arts would have an impact across all grade levels.

A number of teachers informed members of the school leadership that the funding for these programs are often earmarked for reductions, but suggested there is inadequate funding currently and as a result it has limited options for students aspiring to engage in music, arts and foreign language. In some instances, students are forced to choose between music and a foreign language, because they cannot have both. Worries mentioned most often by supporters of music education and the arts included but were not limited to: (1) Limitations of options for students in the arts programs; (2) Overcrowding in classrooms; (3) Request to expand the music education program; (4) Replacement of worn or damaged musical instruments; and (5) Return of the Kennedy Center Concert Program.

The presentations by several members of the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association (PGCEA) outlined several concerns for their membership. Most alarming to those present, was the information that teacher morale is at an all-time low according the PGCEA representatives. PGCEA representatives stated the following sentiments from their members: (1) Impossible working conditions; (2) Concerns about job security; (3) Compensation; (4) Increase work demands; and (5) Reductions and lost of stipends.

In closing, the Dr. Hite applauded the turnout, thanked those in attendance and reminded the audience that he has not proposed any formal budget suggestions to the Board of Education at this time. He stated the turnout suggests that parents and members of the community are engaged and that the system would be incorporating additional forms of technology to connect parents to the budgeting process (It appears they are getting the message!)

As a side note there is a Board of Education meeting on October 27, 2011 starting at 7pm. If you can attend, please do so, however, if you are unable to be present, please follow the proceedings on channels 96 Comcast and 38 on Verizon. You can also view the meeting via webcast. Also, please join me as I will be Tweeting my thoughts, views and comments during the meeting.


Michael Robinson, Ed.D.

“Student achievement and increase school performance are linked by the support of engaged parents, dedicated educators, and the informed community.”

PGCPS Superintendent to Hold Public Hearing at 7pm Tues., 10/25/11 Re: FY13 Budget

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members:

This is a gentle reminder: PGCPS Superintendent will hold the 2nd of two public hearings to discuss the FY 2013 PGCPS Operating Budget on Tuesday, October 25th at 7:00 p.m. This is an opportunity for parents, guardians, and community members to be involved in the process and to express your concerns.
Here are some important facts:
  • The public hearing is in the Boardroom at the Sasscer Administration Bldg. located at 14201 School Lane, Upper Marlboro. Please click the following link for directions,
  • To speak at the hearing, you must be registered. To register, please send an email to or call (301) 952-6382;
  • Please have your testimony statement prepared for speaking and bring 2-3 copies;
  • To be even more prepared, please read the attached presentations (very important)
    • FY2011 Budget Close-out - expenditures for FY11
    • PGCPS Budget Process - understand the budget process and your role
    • PGCPS Approved Budget Plan for FY2012 - where does all of the money go?
  • Please forward this information to others.
  • This is serious business about the education of our children, the more people who attend the better.
I hope to see you at the public hearing on Tuesday, October 25th. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.
Kindest regards,
Alexandria Briggs-Blake, PTA President
Ft. Foote Elementary School

S.T.E.P. U.P. Committee Chairperson
Congressional Achievement in Education
MD State PTA Honorary Lifetime Member
Prince George's County Council of PTAs, Inc.
Involving Families and Community for Student Success
Parental Involvement in Education is Key
"People with passion can change the world for the better." - Steve Jobs

Is Fatherhood In The Gene(s): An Imaginary View of How Fathers Are Made

Dr. Michael A. Robinson

Over the years, I have been told by the elder men in my family as well as by the dads and uncles of some of my closest friends there is an art to being a father. These wise men, all of whom are married and appear to be happy and well adjusted or as my wife would say, they have been well versed on the inner processes of keeping a wife happy and a family strong and together. These men, these rock solid brothers, offered advice to young foolish souls such as me. If honesty is the best foundation for a great story based on real events, then I honestly must admit that at times I found little use for their pearls of wisdoms. The facts are less flattering; on numerous occasions I completely ignored their guidance. Fortunately my avoidance of these opportunities did not come back to haunt me, thus suggesting on some subconscious level, I must have some way, somehow absorb their messages.

Now, as father, I reminisce over the many conversations and the countless hours of sage advice presented by these unassuming, yet giant figures of our community. Then it hit me! These guys got it! They understood it! They had it! The question is what was is it and where did their gift to stand tall as men of faith; good husbands and loving fathers begin? The similarities in their descriptions of the multiple aspects of fatherhood and the commitment it took were uncanny. How they explored what it took to accept and maintain a strong and vibrant relationship with their spouses and children were not lessons delivered in an hour long dissertation, but over time. These great men led by example and spoke frankly, but not preachy. These pillars of my world and my community who walked and talked with the confidence of Gods, but loved and respected their families as mere men, appeared to have been passing on the secret to eternal wedded bliss and family cohesiveness from which kingdoms and nations were forged.

From my days of reminiscing, as coined by a great African American poet and singer, Mary J. Blige; I came to understand, there was something special within these men. This generation of men, these remarkable brothers, who were in some cases unrelated and not from the same community, but whose essences were parallel had to have a common thread. What was this strand that linked these men? Where is it now? Does it exist in our fathers, brothers, uncles, and the other significant males in our community?

Recently, I overheard a conversation between five graduate students at an well-known historical black university discussing their views on how men, but more specifically African American men become great fathers. Their discourse was fascinating, intriguing, mind boggling, intellectually stimulating and very funny. These future scholars were pursuing doctoral degrees from different academic fields. While all offered unique views to how African American men go from good men to great dads, it was perhaps the views of the medical student I found the most amusing. Her view was both funny and intriguing.

Medical experts assert there may be a cell within the male DNA that appears to represents the characteristics typically associated with the desire of men to become fathers. The DADDY gene or DDG for us non-clinician minded individuals is a tiny organism living inside every male. This DDG grows as the young man matures.

The great thing and the not so great thing about the DADDY gene it is a blank gene, with the exception of the limited coding for daddy responsiveness. The DADDY gene is without a bulk of the DNA coding that has been placed on every other form of genetic material in our body. Therefore, the DADDY gene is somewhat impressionable. This gene is like the proverbial lump of clay, unmolded and ready to be shaped into this great work of art. However, if the DADDY gene falls into the wrong hands, it could have a devastating impact on society.

This remarkable tiny cell has the potential to change the course of a world, a nation, a state, a community, a school, but more importantly a family. The DADDY gene if not nurtured in the best possible environment by those who respect and honor its power can become self-destructive. The DADDY gene determines the type of father all men who decide to take on fatherhood will become. There is no way around it; the DADDY gene guides the parental instincts of all men.

While the DADDY gene has slight hereditary features already encoded within, the volume of what this gene is to become is engraved by the many influential adults this young man will encounter in his life. The first and far most influential figures will be his parents. Typically this means mom and dad. However, there is a special place on the young man’s DADDY gene that has been set-a-side for his father. The father’s values, beliefs, and views on life that are embedded on the DADDY gene by fathers are typically permanent and become visible shortly after birth.

Given, the delicate nature of the DADDY gene and how it will and can impact the development of future fathers, it becomes imperative for all fathers to step up to their responsibilities as dads. This requires that fathers work tirelessly to ensure they are placing the right messages on their son’s DADDY gene. Their sons will take whatever they have learned from their fathers, they will internalize what their fathers have written or failed to write on their DADDY gene and enter society prepared or ill-prepared to fully accept their role as leaders of communities and families.

The DADDY gene is not impervious to misinformation and unfulfilled promises associated with childhood. However, what makes the DADDY gene one of the most resilient of all cells in the male body is its uncanny nature to decode itself once it realizes that unhealthy messages and misleading information has been implanted. Albeit the DADDY gene has the capability of throwing off facets of the common cold, it is not immune to the multitude of other forms of viruses and thus needs to be nurtured like all other genes in the body. Consistent attacks to the DADDY gene will eventually result in the permanent infection of the gene.

Men Make A Difference Day...What A Great Day!

Greetings and Thank You To All,

I am writing to give a RESOUNDING THANK YOU to every father, uncle, brother, nephew, cousin, and significant male role model who participated in the 2011 Men Make A Difference Day (MMDD) held all across America on October 10, 2011. A special THANK YOU goes out to members of PTA’s, PTO’s, Community Organizations, Boards of Education, Superintendents, Central Office staff, Principals, Counselors, Teachers, and School Based Personnel for opening their doors and welcoming fathers and other significant male role models into schools. Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank the thousands of mothers, sisters, wives, aunts and other significant female role models for their support of Men Make A Difference Day, without their unyielding belief and planning expertise there would be no Men Make A Difference Day.

Because of all of the support and commitment to increase parental engagement generated because of MMDD, we saw thousands of fathers and significant male role models visit schools, observe classrooms volunteer, and join their local PTA and other formal parent organizations. We know from years of research when fathers or a significant male role model is involved in the academic lives of children, there is increase academic achievement and improved social behavior. The presence of male role models who are taking an active role in the educational process in their community are by their mere support suggesting our public schools are the hub the community and must be fully funded. I want to ensure all who participated and supported this national event that is just the start of our national movement to increase parental engagement as a means to create high performing schools nationwide.

Please join me in thanking the thousands of men for their pledge to make a difference and stay engaged in the academic lives of their children. Below, you will find a few follow up points of information. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 301.776.2384 or via email at

Pictures: We are looking to capture this remarkable day with pictures, if you or your organization, please forward pictures to

Survey (October 12, 2011-November 14, 2011): We are looking to capture the voices of men and school officials regarding their views of the 2011 Men Make A Difference Day. If you or your organization participated in the Men Make A Difference Day is 10.10.11 please respond to a short survey at …..

DAD’s Pledge of Engagement: I pledge to remain engaged in the academic life of my child. As an engaged father, dedicated dad, or significant male role I pledge to…….Please have dad’s and significant male role models to sign the DAD’s Pledge of Engagement at


Friday, September 30, 2011

Partnering with Public Schools and the Community

Posted by Dr. Charlene Dukes on September 29, 2011 at 06:15 PM EDT

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Charlene Dukes

Community colleges across the nation have catapulted into the limelight as a major sector of the higher education landscape. We share a common mission of access and a commitment to student success and completion. We, at Prince George’s Community College, are honored to have been chosen as a ‘Champion of Change’ because of our focus on our mission - to transform the lives of the more than 40,000 diverse students whom we serve.

We open our doors to thousands of students and recently have been acknowledged for our commitment to providing students with a quality education by welcoming 100 rising ninth graders to the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, the first middle college high school in the state of Maryland. These students, who will be joined each year by another class of ninth graders in the creation of a full high school program of grades 9-12, will realize their dreams and graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously; the Class of 2015 will be the first!.

Through a strong partnership with the Prince George’s County Public Schools, the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College was born and unveiled earlier this year. Its opening is evidence that despite the economic challenges of today, our public school and college leaders are facilitating learning in transformational ways for tomorrow’s leaders as one solution to global competitiveness in the decades ahead.

There is another idea central to the creation of the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College – and that is if we believe in seamless learning and a true Pre-K through 20 system of providing access to support an educated citizenry with degrees and credentials, then institutions of learning can no longer exist in a vacuum in our society. We need students to be able to dream beyond the boundaries of their schools, beyond the limits of their neighborhoods, and beyond the shores of this country. They must view themselves and their learning as part of a much larger world. We live in an age of interconnectedness, where technology and the global village allows access to information at a rate faster than any time in human history. We must give students the tools to critically analyze that information, make judgments, draw conclusions and join the debate as informed and impassioned citizens of this country and our world. Our students in the Academy are understanding that learning is not limited by the walls of the school or the hours of the school day, but rather that it is a lifelong, 24/7/365 endeavor.

Prince George’s Community College is dedicated to education and committed to student success and completion. The college’s strategic plan is focused on increasing graduation rates in a rigorous, standards-based environment through a formal pledge of completion that reflects national and statewide efforts to boost the number of graduates and meet the goals issued by President Obama and his administration. To that end, the college has embarked on a completion agenda, known as Envision Success, which is geared toward ensuring students are successful and that they receive degrees, certificates, and certifications as part of their educational objectives.

A great example of how we prepare students to become leaders is evident in our national recognitions. Prince George’s Community College has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Two-year Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for academic years 2010 through 2015, and Community College Week recently named Prince George’s Community College one of the 50 fastest-growing public two-year colleges in the nation.

The college's real strength rests in its people – faculty, staff, and administrators who dedicate themselves daily to responding to students’ intellectual and professional needs. All of what is accomplished here would not be possible without them. They are the real Champions!

Dr. Charlene M. Dukes is the eighth president, and first female president, of Prince George’s Community College and has more than thirty years of progressive leadership experience and administrative responsibility in higher education.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kimberly K. Parker Tells Us: YOU CAN DO IT

My commute to work this morning was as cool as a cucumber. Listening to the very insightful teachings of Joyce Meyers as I sipped green tea, I coasted with ease over the river and through the woods. There was no traffic as far as my four eyes could see and fellow drivers, at their most courteous best, allowed one another to segue with a smile. This, my friend, was mobile poetry in motion.

As I rounded a corner in a quiet residential neighborhood, I saw a plus size woman jogging with a look of “I can do it” on her face. She had earphones in her ears, weights on her legs and wrists, and a hand towel snuggly tucked in her waist belt. Her gait was slow, steady…which, by the way, wins the race. Victory was definitely in her future.

I became transfixed on that powerful sight. I tried to pull over, but the car behind me was trailing rather closely so my attempts were prevented. I anxiously felt my eyes widening and my smile broadening. My mouth was about to erupt as I struggled to capture what I felt would be appropriately encouraging words to scream out of my window. I could not contain myself any longer! I rolled down my window, gasped and swooned, and slowed down long enough to yell, “Go ‘head! You can do it!” The woman raised her fist in solidarity, smiled, and kept on moving.

Inspiration comes in the most unexpected form. That woman – who I may never see again – served as a reminder of my ability to be, to create, to live! Without speaking a word, she told me that I can do it…whatever “it” may be only if I pattern my actions around these five very simple yet profound thoughts:

1. Decide to take action. As I mentioned, the woman was plus sized. However, she made a decision to take exercise in an attempt to live a healthier life.

2. Determine that you must move forward. I can only imagine the defeating thoughts she internalized as well as heard from other. In spite of it all, she was determined to put one foot in front of the other.

3. Be driven. In case you did not know, you are already empowered. You have the wherewithal to accomplish your goals whether or not someone cheers you onward. Allow the powerful force of God on the inside to steer you in all of the right directions.

4. Just do it. Period.

5. Arrive at your destination. You have a goal in sight and it’s most attainable. As Michael Jackson said, “Keep on with the force…don’t stop! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” When you get to your expected end, do as that woman did: raise you fist in solidarity, smile, and keep it moving!

Kimberly K. Parker is the President and CEO of Writing Momma Publishing, LLC ( This past summer, her company published three books for young authors age nine to nineteen! This fall, she will host “Write On!” an eight week writing program for youth and she is currently looking for a few young writers who want to participate. Visit for more information. Kimberly is a ghostwriter, author and blogger living in Maryland with her husband and three children.

Funding Parental Engagement Services Is A Sound School District Policy

Dr. Michael A. Robinson

It has been stated many times over that organizations fund what they believe is crucial to their mission. When a monetary importance is attached to a strategic objective or an organizational goal, one is made aware of its significance to the organization. This basic management concept easily applies to the educational arena. The funding associated with a school district’s departments or units of family and community engagement allows stakeholders to potentially evaluate the significance school districts associate with the importance of parent and community involvement.

If school districts desire a robust and effective parental engagement program, one where families, communities, and schools become authentic partners in forming a high performing school system those departments must be sufficiently funded. A sense of priority is communicated to internal and external stakeholders when parent and community outreach programs are satisfactorily provided resources. Seminal researchers in the area of parental engagement do not suggest parent and community support programs and services be funded at the levels of academic and or student services. Albeit, research has shown effective parental engagement and community involvement policies and programs have a direct impact on student achievement while reducing strain on student service personnel who perform home visits, parent conferences, and or counseling sessions with students.

School districts which have elected to eliminate part or their entire parental engagement department in the name of budget reductions have a very limited understanding of the indispensable role parent involvement plays in relation to the academic success of students and school systems. Abolishing family and community outreach services, specifically those aimed at increasing parental and community connections to their neighborhood schools and the school district overall will result in an eventual eroding of confidence from parents about the real mission of their public school system. Failure of school leadership to embrace the impact of parents supporting learning at home while working in concert with school based leadership can do damage to the educational community that possibly will take years to reverse.

A strong recommendation for school districts considering reducing or eliminating their family and community outreach departments would be not to do so, but to re-consider the benefits to actually adding more resources and what it would mean to overall school performance. Finally, for those school districts which have severely reduced or eliminated their parent and community outreach services restore them as soon as possible. Re-establish the relationship with your families and community by committing to ensure effective two-way unfettered communication. A sound and fully supported program of services in the area of parental engagement will help schools in achieving its schools in closing achievement gaps, increase in the number of students enrolled in advance classes, assist in preparing students to career and college ready.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Comcast offers cheap broadband to poor families

The company announced today its Internet Essentials program that will target low-income families with school-age children and help them get connected to the Internet by offering a combination of discounted broadband service, low-cost computers, and free training programs to teach people how to use the technology.

The company kicked off the program at Ballou High School in the District of Columbia. David Cohen, an executive vice president at Comcast, was joined at the launch for the program by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and D.C.Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Nearly one-third of the U.S. population, or about 93 million Americans, do not have broadband Internet access at home, according to the FCC's National Broadband Plan presented to Congress in 2010. The report identified three main reasons as barriers to adoption: affordability, digital literacy, and relevance.

Cohen said that Comcast's Internet Essentials program is an attempt to address all of these barriers. And the company targeted low-income families with school-age children because of the educational benefits broadband offers.

"What has become apparent to us as a company is that there is a cruel irony when it comes to broadband," Cohen said in an interview. "We have this wonderful technology which has the potential to be a great equalizer, providing access to education, health care, and jobs information across multiple income populations. But because of the adoption gap, or the digital divide, access to the Internet is actually exacerbating the problem instead of solving it."

How it works

The way the Internet Essentials program works is families with at least one child receiving free lunch as part of the federal government's National School Lunch Program will be eligible to receive Comcast's broadband service for $9.95 per month. Comcast typically charges about $41 a month for this 1.5 Mbps service. (A family of three making $24,000 or less a year qualifies for free lunch (PDF) as part of the national lunch program. )

In addition to offering low-cost broadband, Comcast is also working with Microsoft, Dell, and Acer to offer discounted computers to these households for less than $150. And through partnerships with nonprofits One Economy, Common Sense Media, and iKeepSafe, Comcast has also developed free printed and online digital literacy training that will be available at no cost in schools, libraries and through community organizations to help these families make the most of their broadband resource.

Internet Essentials will be rolled out in more than 4,000 school districts in 39 states and the District of Columbia this school year. Comcast estimates that approximately 1.5 million to 2 million families may be eligible to participate in the program.

Comcast will initially focus its marketing efforts for Internet Essentials in the most impoverished areas and school districts with a high proportion of students receiving free lunch, Cohen said. But he said that even in areas where there is a low-population of free lunch students or in places where the schools themselves are not participating in the program, families whose children qualify for free lunch will be eligible for the program.

They simply need to contact Comcast

Also, as long as the family has a student receiving free lunch through the national program, the family will be eligible for the $9.95 service. And the price will not go up, Cohen said.

Once a student graduates high school and/or if the family no longer qualifies for free lunch, the family will no longer qualify for the Internet Essentials program and will have to pay full price for the broadband service. Comcast is offering more information on this program on its Web site.
Cohen said that Comcast has been developing programs to increase digital literacy and to make Internet access more affordable for low-income populations for several years in cities, such as Philadelphia and Boston. The company has invested in nonprofits, such as OneEconomy to help provide digital literacy training. And it's built community technology labs in places such as Philadelphia.

Unlike some of its other efforts, the Internet Essentials program specifically targets families and children. Offering low-cost access to broadband service and to computers is a key part of this solution, because affordability may be the biggest barrier to adoption in this demographic.
Affordability a key barrier

Analysis of the most recent U.S. Census data shows that more than a third of "young" American families with children were living in poverty last year. Young families are defined as those with parents under the age of 30. In total, 37 percent these young families fell below the poverty line in 2010, eclipsing the previous high of 36 percent set in 1993, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

With many families unable to afford broadband service, it potentially puts their children even further behind academically from children who attend schools in wealthier communities. While grants and government funding, such as the FCC-administered E-Rate program, have provided many schools, including those in low-income areas with computers and technology in the classroom to enhance learning and education, too often that technology is left at the door when students leave school.

In higher income neighborhoods, 70 percent to 80 percent of students will likely have access to a computer and broadband connection at home. This allows schools to implement programs such as homework tracking software that gives teachers a way to assess students, as well as offers parents a way to check on their students' progress. But in low-income areas where broadband penetration is closer to 15 percent, offering that extra help and access to materials online at home is a huge hurdle.

Cohen said that Comcast came to the conclusion long ago that it needed to help solve this problem. And as part of its deal to buy NBC Universal, it voluntarily offered to make affordable broadband service available as part of its conditions with the FCC to approve the merger.
"It was a voluntary commitment to offer more affordable broadband service to low-income families," Cohen said. "We are not required to it. But we came to the FCC and offered this as a condition of the merger, because we knew this issue is important to the FCC. And it's important to us. We reached a decision years ago as a company that if we can't stand for digital literacy, then who is going to? It's our business."

FCC Chairman Genachowski said in a statement that he is pleased to see Comcast follow through on its promise.

"This past January, Comcast made a commitment to the FCC and the American people to provide discounted broadband service to millions of low-income families," he said. "The program will prepare the next generation, create new opportunities for more jobs and will make a positive difference in the lives of many Americans. I challenge other service producers to take concrete steps to help close the broadband adoption gap."

Cohen points out that other cable operators in other regions of the country are also addressing broadband affordability and the digital divide issue. He said Comcast got many of its ideas for the Internet Essentials program from a similar program offered by Cox Communications in San Diego.

"We're not trying to embarrass our fellow cable providers or our competitors by touting this program," Cohen said. "There are lots of companies addressing this issue in other ways. And this is another solution that we think is important. We are investing a lot in this, and if it's successful, maybe others will follow it."

Read more:

Men Make A Difference Day - Perrywood

Photos of the 2010 Parental Engagement Conference

Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

The Middle School Years

Visits From Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators