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


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