Archive for June, 2010

Educators and other school staff should be more aware of the fact that children often have a lot going on at home that they are trying to understand. Here’s a glimpse into my experiences with my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s.


Falling Asleep With your Eyes Open

My grandmother’s 87-year-old frail, fragile body sits alone at the table. The food in front of her is growing cold and her brain isn’t telling her she is supposed to be eating it. The mound of mashed potatoes, the peas, and the cut turkey all remain neatly in their respective sections. My dad and I have come for a visit. I guess the staff must be preoccupied because nobody is assisting her. My dad and I approach the table, but her head does not turn, the life in her vacant eyes does not appear. “Hi mommy,” my dad says with a cheerful tone. “Do you know who this is?” He’s looking from my grandmom to me, and then back at her. “Oh my, what a beautiful child,” my grandmother replies with genuine happiness as she tunes into reality. “This is your granddaughter, Laura,” my dad reminds her. “Oh yes. Oh my, what a beautiful child.”

A few years before my grandmom was admitted to the nursing home, my mom walks next door to my grandparents’ house to visit, and finds her sitting in front of the television, staring at it intently as if in a trance. My mom attempts to begin a conversation, and my grandmother becomes furious and snaps her head around. “Shhh! I’m getting a message.” My mom is speechless, unsure how to react. The television isn’t even turned on.

In the middle of the night, the doorbell rings. My mom cautiously opens the door and my tiny grandmother is standing there in her nightgown and slippers. She is frightened and must take cover at our house because my grandfather has tried to kill her. In a fit of rage, he tried to push her down the stairs, but lord have mercy, she escaped. My dad awakens from his slumber and walks her back home. My grandfather is sound asleep, unaware that she has crawled out of bed. It takes a group effort to convince her that she is safe.

My sister and I are in the car with our grandparents and our aunt, on our way to a family reunion in the mountains of West Virginia. My sister has a pack of cards and she wants to play Go Fish. She asks our grandmother to play and attempts to hand her some cards, but our grandmother is motionless. “Look,” my sister points out, “grandmom fell asleep with her eyes open.”

They say Alzheimer’s skips a generation… Once the disease latches on, the symptoms worsen until the victim reaches a point where he or she cannot process reality. At first the forgetfulness is funny. “This isn’t my scotch? I left my drink right here!” As memory loss progresses, this humor turns to defense. “I’m not crazy!” The third stage is all about faking it. “Merciful heavens. Of course I remember him. What a handsome boy he is!” The last stage is oblivion. Towards the end, my grandmother spent a lot of time singing quietly and having conversations with someone invisible to us. Her body withered away, but she wasn’t bitter or depressed during the last leg of her illness.

Sometimes I wonder if she ever found herself in a brief pocket of clarity, where she remembers that her husband has died, that she has two daughters and a son, that she once held a paintbrush and captured the colors reflecting from the Severn River. I imagine her alone in the nursing home, her hollow eyes coming alive and temporarily reflecting a fervent plea, begging anyone to appear so that she can say she is here. She can sense the wave approaching and knows she is powerless to stop the surging, roaring waters that will cause her brain to go haywire. The wave crashes and her thoughts churn and refuse to connect. She softly hums and her face transforms into its usual serene demeanor.

I hope to ward off this possible infestation of the brain and prevent myself from becoming a living zombie. I examine deodorant labels and purchase the stick that doesn’t contain aluminum. I read books and play Sudoku, attempting to keep myself mentally stimulated. I know that eating walnuts and salmon are recommended, but I can’t say I consume much of either.

I imagine myself in the future, surrounded by a group of pleasant strangers. “Are you too cold? Would you like a sweater?” “Isn’t that a beautiful painting they have on the wall?”. I am able to adequately respond to these questions, and then I begin humming a tune that no one is able to identify. I am oblivious.


This is my grandparents’ house, right before it was torn down. It was on the Severn River in Anne Arundel County.


Reading Questionnaire

Posted: June 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

I met my new group of developmental college reading students today and gave them a questionnaire. I have a fairly young group so I asked the question, “Do you feel your high school experience prepared you for college?” Here are the responses:

  • Yes, my high school experience prepared me for college but it has been a very long time.
  • No, I really didn’t go to high school. I dropped out and got my GED.
  • No not at all.
  • I think my high experience has prepared me for college.
  • Not really
  • Yes it did
  • Not at all
  • What prepared me was wanting to be a counselor for people who use drugs and alcohol
  • I don’t think it prepared me enough.
  • In ways yes.
  • Yeah in a way I feel like it did.
  • Didn’t go all the way through high school

Results: 5 say YES, 4 say NO, 2 did not complete high school, and 1 response (the 8th one)  is unclear

I didn’t see the data on KIPP Harmony (maybe they’re too new?) N/A means the school does not serve that body of students or that there were too few students in that category for data to be collected.

Charter School –> 2009 info Elem SPED Mid SPED High SPED
City Spring School (preK-8) 9.50% 6.90%
Wolfe Street Academy (preK-5) 15% N/A
Dr. Rayner Browne Academy (preK-8) 7.80% 12.30%
Hampstead Hill Academy (preK-8) 7.40% 7.90%
Rosemont (preK-8) 11.30% 14.90%
Collington Square School (preK-8) 12.40% 10.40%
Empowerment Academy (preK-8) 5.70% N/A
Midtown Academy (K-8) 5.70% N/A
The Crossroads School (6-8) N/A 9.90%
KIPP Ujima Academy (5-8) 10.10% 12.10%
ConneXions (6-12) N/A 17.90% 17.10%
City Neighbors Charter (K-8) 15.80% 19.40%
Patterson Park (K-8) 9.30% 8.10%
Southwest Charter (K-5) 9.00% N/A
Inner Harbor East (Pre-K-7) 5.20% N/A
Northwood Appold Community Academy (K-5) 6.20% N/A
MATHS (Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences) (6-11) N/A 10.80% 4.70%
The Green School (K-5) 9.00% N/A
Independence School Local 1 (9-12) N/A N/A 17%
Bluford Drew Jemison MST (6-8) N/A 10.10%
Baltimore International Academy (K-7) 3.50% N/A
Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School (preK-5) 9% N/A
Afya Public Charter School (6-7) N/A 11.70%
City Neighbors Hamilton (K-3) 15.80% 19.40%
KIPP Harmony (K)
Baltimore Freedom Academy (6-12) N/A 18.10% 10.10%
Coppin Academy (9-12) N/A N/A 9%

Below I have listed the percentage of Limited English Proficient (ESL) students served in Baltimore’s charter schools. I am simply stating facts here and not trying to put negative implications on Baltimore’s charters. The only fair comparison will be to see what the percentage of LEP students are served at nearby regular public schools, and I have not gotten around to that yet. Again, all of this info was collected from the 2009 Maryland Report Card.

(N/A means that the school does not serve that population of students or that they do not have enough students participating  to collect data)


City Spring School (preK-8) 0% 0%
Wolfe Street Academy (preK-5) 40% N/A
Dr. Rayner Browne Academy (preK-8) 0% 0%
Hampstead Hill Academy (preK-8) 17.90% 6.30%
Rosemont (preK-8) 0% 0%
Collington Square School (preK-8) 0% 0%
Empowerment Academy (preK-8) 0% 0%
Midtown Academy (K-8) 0% 0%
The Crossroads School (6-8) N/A N/A
KIPP Ujima Academy (5-8) 0% 0%
ConneXions (6-12) N/A 0% 0%
City Neighbors Charter (K-8) 0% 0%
Patterson Park (K-8) 15.80% 8.10%
Southwest Charter (K-5) 0% N/A
Inner Harbor East (Pre-K-7) 0% N/A
Northwood Appold Community Academy (K-5) 0% N/A
MATHS (Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences) (6-11) N/A 0% 0%
The Green School (K-5) 0% N/A
Independence School Local 1 (9-12) N/A N/A 0%
Bluford Drew Jemison MST (6-8) N/A 0%
Baltimore International Academy (K-7) 4.30% N/A
Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School (preK-5) N/A N/A
Afya Public Charter School (6-7) N/A 0%
City Neighbors Hamilton (K-3) 0% 0%
KIPP Harmony (K)
Baltimore Freedom Academy (6-12) N/A 0% 0%
Coppin Academy (9-12) N/A N/A 0%

Charter Schools Percentages of students w/ free or reduced lunch:

(N/A means that the school does not serve that population of students)


City Spring School (preK-8) 93.40% 87.70%
Wolfe Street Academy (preK-5) 90.60% N/A
Dr. Rayner Browne Academy (preK-8) 93.80% 95.40%
Hampstead Hill Academy (preK-8) 71.70% 85.70%
Rosemont (preK-8) 91.10% 92.60%
Collington Square School (preK-8) 93.20% 90.70%
Empowerment Academy (preK-8) 71.40% 52.30%
Midtown Academy (K-8) 43.10% 44.60%
The Crossroads School (6-8) N/A 82.80%
KIPP Ujima Academy (5-8) 87.40% 84.20%
ConneXions (6-12) N/A 76.40% 52.10%
City Neighbors Charter (K-8) 34.60% 34.30%
Patterson Park (K-8) 78.10% 75.80%
Southwest Charter (K-5) 77.60% 0%
Inner Harbor East (Pre-K-7) 89.90% 100%
Northwood Appold Community Academy (K-5) 56.40% 0%
MATHS (Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences) (6-11) N/A 74.60% 64.20%
The Green School (K-5) 36% N/A
Independence School Local 1 (9-12) N/A N/A 63.20%
Bluford Drew Jemison MST (6-8) N/A 77.50%
Baltimore International Academy (K-7) 40.50% N/A
Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School (preK-5) 26% N/A
Afya Public Charter School (6-7) N/A 78.40%
City Neighbors Hamilton (K-3) 34.60% 34.30%
KIPP Harmony (K)
Baltimore Freedom Academy (6-12) N/A 90.20% 66.70%
Coppin Academy (9-12) N/A N/A 53%

I’m doing some research on Baltimore City’s charter schools. Below is a list of the charters. There are more than are listed, but I only included the ones that are included on the 2009 Maryland Report Card . The charters that I didn’t list are too new for statistics to have been compiled  yet. In future posts I’ll be analyzing the percentages of students receiving free lunch, the percentage of special education students, the percentage of limited English proficient students, and then comparing the charters with nearby regular public schools. Tedious work, but interesting!

Baltimore City Charter Schools ——————————— # of students

City Spring School (preK-8) 562
Wolfe Street Academy (preK-5) 182
Dr. Rayner Browne Academy (preK-8) 253
Hampstead Hill Academy (preK-8) 548
Rosemont (preK-8) 452
Collington Square School (preK-8) 502
Empowerment Academy (preK-8) 216
Midtown Academy (K-8) 180
The Crossroads School (6-8) 150
KIPP Ujima Academy (5-8) 343
ConneXions (6-12) 239
City Neighbors Charter (K-8) 198
Patterson Park (K-8) 526
Southwest Charter (K-5) 201
Inner Harbor East (Pre-K-7) 267
Northwood Appold Community Academy (K-5) 248
MATHS (Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences) (6-11) 366
The Green School (K-5) 108
Independence School Local 1 (9-12) 102
Bluford Drew Jemison MST (6-8) 259
Baltimore International Academy (K-7) 367
Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School (preK-5) 172
Afya Public Charter School (6-7) 113
City Neighbors Hamilton (K-3) 198
KIPP Harmony (K)
Baltimore Freedom Academy (6-12) 532
Coppin Academy (9-12) 317

I’m on a roll!

Posted: June 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

Finally, I got back into the groove of writing. I am now also writing for the Examiner and my articles can be seen here. Some of my topics on this blog will be very similar to my articles on Examiner, except here I often write in first person while I try to remain in third person for Examiner.

If you or anyone you know would like to have a nonprofit, a private business, a charter school, public school, private school, or other program in the Baltimore area geared towards education mentioned, leave a comment or send an email to .

Thanks! I look forward to working with everyone and continuing to read your interesting comments!

Oh…and happy summer! (I included a beach photo from Mexico to set the mood)