A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

July 24, 2014 10:43 AM3 comments


Every year, I enjoy participating in the J.E.B. Stuart High School graduation ceremonies. From my vantage point on the stage, I can witness, up close, the pride, joy, and camaraderie between the school administration, faculty, and graduating seniors. Last month’s ceremony was delightful once again, with many scholastic honors and service awards presented in front of proud families and friends. Everyone in the cavernous field house at Robinson Secondary School seemed to share in the delight as each student was called by name to receive a diploma. Students participating in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program were identified in the printed program and by a special cord on their graduation robe, but the final IB scores are not available until after graduation, so some students are in suspense when they walk across that stage for their Fairfax diploma.

Well, the scores are in, and 35 graduates earned their IB diploma, a 20 percent increase from last year, and just one shy of the number receiving the IB diploma in 2011. According to Stuart Principal Prosperanta Calhoun, 16 students earned a score of 30 or more, and one student, Monica “Lizzie” Wright, got an amazing score of 37! The IB diploma is accepted internationally as a qualification for admission to institutes of higher education; earning it means hundreds of hours of extra instruction and homework for students who pursue it. Principal Calhoun noted that 74 Stuart students will seek an IB diploma next year, the largest number in the school’s history. Stuart pioneered the IB program in Fairfax County nearly 20 years ago, and it has been a great addition to the curriculum. As Principal Calhoun also noted, “our students are simply amazing!” I couldn’t agree more.

When I toured the school at Principal Calhoun’s invitation this spring, I found a clean, coordinated school with attentive and polite students. I especially was impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of teachers whose classrooms – from biology to government and in between – contained an amalgam of nationalities and cultures, yet everyone was moving in the same direction together. The cafeteria may have been the most surprising place of all – mealtime was a quiet event, without loud voices or food fights. Trash was placed in the proper receptacles, and students greeted adult visitors in a pleasant tone of voice. There is pride in being a Raider, and it showed.

The Silver Line opens this Saturday, as five new Metro stations come on line and begin serving passengers. Planning for a rail line that serves both the core city and Dulles International Airport began nearly 50 years ago, but the active construction for Phase 1, as anyone who has driven Route 7 or the Toll Road knows, has happened only in the last decade. Silver Line trains will run from Wiehle-Reston East all the way to Largo, Maryland. It’s a long-awaited and exciting advance. Phase 2, from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles and into Loudoun County, is expected to be completed by 2018.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.




  • Like our left-leaning mainsteam media, omitting facts and data in order to put a pretty frame around a not so pretty picture, is a dubious talent. Ms. Gross possesses this talent.

    So 35 students earned their IB Diplomas this year. That’s nice. How many more were given the special recognition in the graduation program and their special IB cord who FAILED to “graduate” IB? 10? 20? 30? We are told there are 74 IB candidates next year. But what about THIS YEAR?? How many students dedicated their last two years of high school to IB and FAILED to earn even the minimum of 24? How do you think those kids felt walking on graduation day? Good? Or entitled to extra recognition for merely having suffered the “rigors” of IB? Proud? Or smug because they’d gotten their college acceptances by BSing their way through their junior and senior years, enough to pass the classes, but not enough to pass the exams?

    One of these days I wish, just wish, someone would interview the IB candidates who didn’t get the diploma. It sure would be nice to hear the OTHER side of the story.


    • Stanzi Calabria

      Not receiving the Diploma is not that big of a deal. Also, not achieving the 24 points does not mean that you “BS-ed” junior and senior year. It means that the tests were difficult. You should give more credit to those people because the classes are just as hard as the test. IB classes are rigorous and place the burden of college-like workloads on students who have block scheduling.

      Although I received my diploma, junior and senior year were the most difficult years by far. Completing those courses with a passing grade is an achievement in itself. I would ask you, did you do the IB diploma? Did you have to write a 4,000 word essay? Did you have to log 150 CAS hours? Did you have to take 2 to 3 tests per course? Did you have to learn a language or musical theory at the IB level? If you did, you would know that those kids are entitled to extra recognition for having suffered the rigors of the IB program.

      The truth about IB is that it is difficult in a sense that only IB diploma candidates know. The college acceptances we got with the IB Diploma Candidate seal are absolutely deserved because those courses prepared us for college more successfully than AP. We write well and we communicate well.

      I wish someone would interview the IB diploma candidates who did not get the diploma as well. They would see how successful IB students are in college. They would see that even without the piece of paper, we did an equivalent of a few years in college in 2 years in high school. Not getting the diploma does not erase two years of your life. It does not erase the fact that you were finishing the EE and CAS while simultaneously filling out the CommonApp. You cannot “BS” through the IB diploma. That is laughable. Why don’t you interview those candidates and see what they tell you?

      • I suppose it’s easy for an IB Diploma recipient to declare that not getting the diploma is “not that big a deal”. The fact that students earn college acceptance based on projected grades and walk at graduation as though they all have earned the diploma, to me, seems specious and phony.

        As my dear departed mother-in-law used to say, “Self-praise is no praise.” If you were an IB candidate this year, surely you know how many students failed to earn the diploma, yet you failed to include that number in your reply. I am very good at determining what facts have been omitted. This is a big one, and it is a “big deal”. In my district, one out of three students fail to earn the IBD. Spending so much money on a program with a 66% success rate is a waste.

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