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In the January 2019 Issue


Shootings, Safety and Stress

Lockdown Drills Challenge the Psyches of Students, Parents and Educators

by Stephanie Kanowitz

Safety drills have long been as much a staple in school as math and language classes. Few of us think twice about fire or tornado drills, letting muscle memory lead the way when the siren goes off. A newer drill, though – the lockdown – is not yet part of the norm. As a result, it’s a source of anxiety for some students, teachers and parents alike — an in-your-face reminder of the potential for tragedy.

Seventy-five percent of Generation Z – people ages 15 to 21 – cited mass shootings as a significant source of stress, and 72 percent said the same about school shootings or the possibility of them, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2018 Stress in America survey, released Oct. 30. About seven in 10 Millennials report similar feelings.

In the November 2018 Issue


Civic Duty

Decline of Civics Education Means Students Less Prepared to Become Informed Citizens

by Stephanie Kanowitz

When pop star Taylor Swift posted on Instagram last month her support for two Tennessee Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, the number of voter registrations on Vote.org skyrocketed, outpacing in just 24 hours the total number for all of August. There’s a lot that’s remarkable here, but one aspect stands out: In adding to the civic discourse, she’s inspiring her largely young fan base to get involved, too.

And sparking interest in civics is no small feat. Defined as the study of citizens’ rights and duties and government workings, civics education has been languishing for years. Studies show that civic knowledge and public engagement is at an all-time low.

In the October 2018 Issue


Smithsonian’s Secrets

World’s Largest Museum, Education and Research Complex Holds Hidden Gems

by Karin Zeitvogel

Say the word Smithsonian and lifelong Washingtonians and newcomers alike think of the museums that line the National Mall. But there is more to the 170-plus-year-old institution than those 11 museums. There’s the National Zoo, eight additional museums, mostly in Washington, D.C., research centers, cultural centers, gardens and programs to promote education and international collaboration.

In fact, the Smithsonian Institution is largest museum, education and research complex in the world. Many of its programs welcome visitors, but without knowing what’s on offer and where, you’d probably miss out on the best that the Smithsonian Institution, as the museums and programs are collectively known, has to offer.

Here are half a dozen ways to get more out of the Smithsonian’s treasures.

In the September 2018 Issue


Truly Global Community

State Department Initiative Brings International Students to U.S. Community Colleges

by Mike Crowley

A renewed focus on America’s community colleges has emerged in education and policy circles over the last several years, especially as the cost of university tuitions continues to soar.

Starting with Democratic policymakers touting the prospects of free community college tuition, and continuing with the Trump administration’s emphasis on apprenticeship and the role of community colleges in vocational training, a tier of the U.S. higher education system that has stood in the shadow of “traditional” four-year colleges now finds itself in the spotlight.

A State Department program called the Community College Initiative (CCI) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017 and in many ways anticipated the current focus on the value and growing importance of community colleges. But it has added an international twist to a local phenomenon.

In the May 2018 Issue

Leaning In Early

Women Ambassadors Advise Students on Getting Ahead ‘In Man’s World’

by Austin Mistretta

The #MeToo movement has raised awareness of how pervasive gender inequality is around the world, while persistent allegations of infidelity and sexual harassment swirling around President Trump have raised red flags among many women voters. Both have galvanized women to speak up about abuse and make their voices heard in the political arena.

Friendly Competition?

Sports Diplomacy: Is It Just ‘War Minus the Shooting’ or More?

by Karin Zeitvogel

At the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, it was not sporting prowess, but sports diplomacy, that stole the show. North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, became the first member of the family dynasty that rules the northern half of the Korean Peninsula to visit the southern half since the Korean War ended with a truce in 1953. Kim more or less stole the limelight from athletes in the early events — who remembers which country won men’s or women’s ski jumping, or that a Russian athlete won a medal, even though Russia wasn’t officially at the games?

In the January 2018 Issue

Expanding Doors

International Students in U.S. Surge to Over 1 Million for Second Year in a Row

by Anna Gawel

For the second year in a row, more than 1 million international students came to study in the U.S., but the 2017 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange also reveals a mixed bag when it comes to America’s global appeal.

In the November 2017 Issue

Time to Sleep In

New Study Shows Economic Benefits of Later School Start Times

by Teri West

It’s no secret that a cranky child or a tired teen is exhausting — prone to acting up, outbursts and, well, other behavior that, quite frankly, any sleep-deprived adult can relate to. Studies have documented the dangers of sleepiness in terms of health risks such as obesity and depression, as well as in diminished academic performance, but a new study suggests that more sleep for middle and high school students could mean more than healthier, happier human beings. It could benefit the U.S. economy to the tune of $83 billion within a decade and $140 billion within 15 years.

In the October 2018 Issue

Speaking Same Language

Experts, Educators Say Benefits of Bilingualism Are Too Easily Brushed Aside in U.S. Schools

by Austin Mistretta

Imagine if students didn’t learn math until late middle school. They’d be starting from scratch, pre-times tables and long division. The majority would probably never make it past algebra, let alone pre-calculus or geometry. Greek mathematician Pythagoras might roll over in his grave knowing that his triangle theorem was being lost.

In most states, that’s the case for foreign language education.

Hip-Hop Harmony

Next Level Sends American Hip-Hop Artists Abroad to Foster Connections

by Sarah Alaoui

Since the writing of the Declaration of Independence, when the Founding Fathers wanted their newly created democracy to set an example to the world, projecting American values and ideals abroad has been a core component of U.S. policy.

In the May 2017 Issue

Hard Lesson in Exclusion

Trump’s Travel Ban May Have Chilling Effect on International Student Enrollment

by Stephanie Kanowitz

By now, we’ve all heard the stories of students unable to return to the United States after President Donald Trump’s hastily issued Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27 barring travelers from seven largely Muslim countries from entering the United States. For instance, there was the Sudanese Stanford University student who was detained at JFK International Airport in New York, and an Iranian Ph.D. candidate at Yale University who was left stranded in Dubai.

We also know about the replacement order, 13780, which Trump signed March 6 and which removed Iraq from the original list of affected countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. And we know about the legal actions taken against both travel bans that have blocked their enforcement. But what we don’t know is what residual effect they will have on American universities.

Training U.S. Diplomats

Foreign Service Institute Prepares Government Workers for Global Careers

by Mindy C. Reiser


Striding across the grassy expanse in boots and backpacks or chatting animatedly in small groups around a cafeteria table, tomorrow’s U.S. ambassadors meet with today’s diplomats to train and prepare for their careers. Joining these Foreign Service Officers in Arlington, Va., at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center — home of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) — are men and women from a wide array of U.S. government agencies (some 47) whose professional assignments include a foreign affairs component.

This bucolic-looking enclave, roughly 10 minutes by shuttle from State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom, is home to an array of courses touching on the many issues — from the recondite to the pragmatic — that are integral to a career in foreign affairs. FSI offers over 800 courses, with nearly 600 directly on campus and 275 available via distance-learning platforms open to government workers posted overseas. Courses range in length from one day to two years and cover topics spanning technology and crisis management to “lessons learned” from past diplomatic case studies.

Acing College Applications


As Schools Embrace Holistic Approach, Students Navigate Stressful Process

by Stephanie Kanowitz

“How do you eat a whale?” Leslie Sargent, a school counselor at D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson High School, asks students who are starting the college application process. That usually gets a lot of blank stares or looks of concern for her sanity, but when she answers herself — “You do it one bite at a time” — the teenagers get it. How do you finish a college application? A little bit at a time.

The college application process has never been easy, but it’s grown more complex in recent years as colleges and universities have shifted to looking holistically at applicants, rather than just at raw data. This means admissions officers are looking not only at test scores, transcripts and grade point averages, but also extracurricular involvement and the content of essays.

In the January 2017 Issue

The Knowledge Gap

CFR Survey Finds U.S. College Students’ Global Literacy Woefully Lacking

by Anna Gawel


Immigration was a hotly contested issue in the U.S. presidential race, with Republican Donald Trump buoyed by anger over what many Americans perceive to be a glut of foreigners inundating the United States. Yet only 34 percent of U.S. college students realize that more Mexicans have left the United States than entered it over the last five years.

Likewise, as North Korea rattles the region with a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests, only 36 percent of students know how many U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea and a mere 28 percent are aware that the U.S. is treaty-bound to protect Japan if it is attacked (despite Trump’s campaign pronouncements that he may not come to allies’ defense).

Flattening Nonprofits

Atlas Corps Aims to Make Global Nonprofit Sector a Two-Way Street

by Mackenzie Weinger


While serving in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, an idea sparked in Scott Beale’s mind while reading Thomas Friedman’s book on globalization, “The World Is Flat.”

“I said, ‘Well, it’s flat in the diplomatic sector. Diplomats, we take our black passports, we go around the world. It’s flat in the private sector — a guy from India goes to Seattle, invents Hotmail, makes a billion dollars. It’s even flat in the athletic sector. If you’re a really good shortstop in the Dominican Republic, you can go play for the Yankees or even better, for the Nationals. Even athletes are crossing borders.

“But in the nonprofit sector, in the NGO-civil society space, Americans had gone overseas to serve in the Peace Corps. But the idea of someone coming and volunteering in the United States — that just was not even going to happen,” Beale recently told The Washington Diplomat.

In the January 2016 Issue

Overseas Opportunities

U.S. Lags Behind Foreign Counterparts in Study Abroad

by Karin Zeitvogel


The American victim of the attacks in Paris in November was California State University-Long Beach exchange student, Nohemi Gonzalez, 23. Gonzalez was having a drink with a friend at La Belle Equipe bistro when heavily armed gunmen opened fire on Nov. 13. The assault in which the gifted industrial design student was killed was one of a series of attacks in which 130 people died, many of them young adults.

Two years ago, when two homemade bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, one of the three victims was Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu, also 23. Lu had gone to Copley Square with two friends to watch the marathon, the way thousands of Bostonians, adoptive and born-and-bred, do every year.

Gonzalez and Lu are among the growing number of students who leave their countries of origin every year and travel abroad to study, according to the “Open Doors” report that was released in mid-November by the U.S. State Department and the nonprofit Institute of International Education (IIE).

Breaking Down ‘Doors’

Latest ‘Open Doors’ Report Shows International Students Flocking to U.S.

by Carolyn Cosmos


The rising tide of international students coming to the United States hit a record high of nearly 1 million students during the 2014-15 academic year — the biggest growth rate in 35 years, according to an annual accounting from the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” project and the U.S. State Department.

The influx is not only potentially generating a massive number of internationally savvy graduates, it has already pumped $30.5 billion into the U.S. economy, adding nearly 375,000 jobs here, said experts at the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) who analyzed the “Open Doors” data.

The United States is the number-one study abroad destination in the world and hosts nearly double the number of students than the United Kingdom, the country currently in second place. Australia and Canada rank third and fourth.

Quality accounts for America’s popularity, but so does capacity. The U.S. has 4,000 institutions of higher education, more than any other nation.

In the November 2015 Issue

Bon Anniversaire

French International School Says Oui To 60 Years of Multicultural Immersion

by Sarah Alaoui


Despite the European Union encompassing 24 official languages and more than 60 different regional or minority languages, more than 75 percent of its primary school students learn English as a foreign language, according to the Pew Research Center. In contrast, as of 2008, only 25 percent of elementary schools in the United States even offer another language to students.

In the Washington metro area, one school has been producing fully bilingual — if not multilingual — graduates for decades. The Lycée Rochambeau, or French International School, which started with a dozen students in 1955, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and continues to be the go-to for families who want their children to receive a French education.

Why French, in particular? While many foreign language learners turn to Spanish or, more recently, Mandarin, French is still widely spoken in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Moreover, many international organizations cite the language as one of its official tongues, not to mention the United Nations and EU institutions in Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Brussels. Though the idea may be outdated, some also turn to French because it is the language of romanticism and music. There are more practical reasons to say oui to French: money. MIT economist Albert Saiz calculated that the premium for speaking French translates to a 2.3 percent bump in an annual salary.

Innovative Convergence

One Week in September: Techno-Centric Diplomacy Comes to Town

by John Paul Farmer


Twenty-five years ago, when the Institute for Education was founded to build common ground in the world community, the state of technology and its role in public policy circles were quite different. Yet in one jam-packed week in late September, four key forces in global technology crossed paths in Washington, D.C., and made clear just how much things have changed.

The United States, China, India and the Catholic Church wield incredible influence — directly on half the world’s population and indirectly on the rest. The work that each is doing related to technology and innovation is benefiting its own people; collectively they constitute a foundation for enhanced global collaboration and progress.

Let’s recap.

In the United States, President Obama has made data, technology and innovation core components of his administration. He named the first-ever U.S. chief technology officer (CTO) and then the first-ever U.S. chief data scientist. He oversaw the launch of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program to bring entrepreneurs and technologists into government service and issued an executive order making the program permanent.

In the October 2015 Issue

Virtual Pioneer

Maryland’s UMUC Leads the Way In International Online Education

by Larry Luxner


Measured by enrollment, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) ranks as one of America’s largest institutions of higher learning. Yet unlike their more famous University of Maryland neighbors over in College Park, UMUC students don’t live in dorms, nor do they have their own football team to root for.

Over the next 12 months, Adelphi-based UMUC plans to abolish another staple of college life — textbooks — saving its 85,000 students millions of dollars in the process.

“Traditionally, if you were to take a course, you had to buy a textbook. But that’s a very old way of doing things,” said UMUC President Javier Miyares. “Let’s get rid of textbooks and instead ask what are the best open, freely available resources out there.”

Miyares, in a recent interview with The Washington Diplomat, said “publishers today know that textbooks are a dying breed,” which is why they’re instead “modularizing” textbooks so that instructors can choose what they want. “And if we cannot find what we’re looking for,” he told us, “we’ll buy the required module.”

Charting New Path

Carlos Rosario School: Local Pioneer In Teaching Foreign-Born Immigrants

by Larry Luxner


In one corner of Dinora Padrino’s level two English class, French-speaking Agnes Manga, recent Eritrean arrival Awet Berhane and Chinese immigrant Wang Wei sit at a table taking notes while two other students, Henry Sánchez of El Salvador and Laura Bernal of Bolivia, proudly display their team project on a big white banner.

Regardless of what they speak at home, everyone’s here to learn English — and they’re doing it with pride and determination.

This mini-United Nations scene repeats itself every day in dozens of classrooms at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, the nation’s first adult charter school and the only one in the District of Columbia devoted to foreign-born immigrants.

In the September 2015 Issue

Perfect Match

Embassy Adoption Program Celebrates Four Decades of Diplomacy, Plans Expansion

by Vanessa H. Larson


It’s late May, and 150 eager, dressed-up fifth-graders from schools across the District of Columbia are representing 50 different countries in the 38th annual Mini United Nations, a daylong event held for the last two years at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

“You are young, and you are smart and you care about the future of the planet…. You make a difference, what you do here today and in years to come,” Swedish Ambassador Björn Lyrvall told the youngsters in his introductory remarks.

The students spent the day in committee-level and bilateral negotiations, debating the merits of three different proposals for confronting climate change, the topic of this year’s Model U.N. simulation.

“Bangkok is in danger of being flooded, since it’s at sea level,” said a boy representing Thailand in a breakout session with Mexico. “There’s not much clean water in our country; what we’re most concerned about is the lack of clean water,” countered a girl from the Mexico team.

Perseverance in Peshawar

Survivors of Pakistani School Massacre Tour United States

by Larry Luxner


Dec. 16, 2014, is not a date 16-year-old Hammad Rahim and his classmates at Pakistan’s Peshawar Army Public School will ever forget. At 10:30 that morning, seven gunmen affiliated with the Taliban stormed the complex and opened fire on staff and students, killing 150 people including over 130 pupils, some as young as 8.

Governments around the world condemned the attack — the worst in Pakistani history — for its outright brutality and its intentional targeting of children. The aftermath marked a rare moment of unity among Pakistan’s factious political and military leadership. Even al-Qaeda issued a statement claiming “our hearts are bursting with pain.”

But the bloodshed didn’t succeed in snuffing out the enthusiasm of the school’s science-oriented students, a dozen of whom recently visited Washington as part of a program organized by the Meridian International Center and U.S. State Department.

In the May 2015 Issue

Hot New Programs

Despite Deniers, Climate Change Spurs Specialized Higher Degrees

by Karin Zeitvogel


In February 2011, University of California-Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado made an alarming announcement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C.

“In 2020, the U.N. has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,” she said.

“Already, Africans are going in small droves up to Spain, Germany and wherever from different countries in the Mediterranean region, but we’re going to see many, many more trying to go north when food stress comes in,” she warned.

Just before Tirado spoke at the AAAS conference, food shortages had pushed the people of Tunisia and Egypt “over the top,” sparking the Arab Spring, she said.

Who or what was the chief culprit behind the political upheaval, the mass outflow of migrants from Africa, the food shortages? According to Tirado and other academics on the AAAS panel, it was climate change.

Since the AAAS talk, historical temperature records keep being shattered. The year 2014, for example, was the hottest since recordkeeping began in 1880. The World Meteorological Organization also points out that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record all took place in the 21st century.

Unclenched Fists

Karate Program Becomes Exercise in Peace-Building and Restraint

by Karin Zeitvogel


“Lead with your bellybutton, not with this,” Soolmaz Abooali says, holding a clenched fist in front of her as a group of 40 teenagers at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., mimics her.

Abooali is teaching traditional karate to the students at this high school named after a Civil War Confederate cavalry commander. But she’s not just teaching the 40 children here how to punch and kick the air and count in Japanese; she’s handing them key tools for peace-building and diplomacy.

And Iranian-born Abooali isn’t just a nine-time U.S. national champion in traditional karate and a fourth dan black belt; she’s also a Ph.D. candidate and graduate research assistant at the George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR). She fled Iran with her parents shortly after the Islamic Revolution. Her father had been kicked out of university for his political activism and her mother, she says, is an educated and outspoken woman who was forever falling afoul of the mullahs. The family went first to Pakistan, then to Bangladesh and finally to Canada as refugees, before settling in the United States.

In the January 2015 Issue

Food For Thought

French, U.S. School Officials Team Up for Healthy Eating

by Sarah Alaoui


When UNESCO singles out your country’s gastronomy as a “world intangible heritage,” then food is no laughing matter. The French take eating seriously and consider it to be a sacred piece of their national identity that should be preserved and passed on to future generations — both at home and in school.

For Americans, food is also a cherished tradition, although it has a more conflicted identity in a nation struggling with rising rates of obesity. Perhaps nowhere is the fight against obesity playing out more prominently than in school cafeterias, where politicians, parents and administrators have been engaged in a fierce debate over how to offer healthy meals for students. And while the debate is largely local, it has taken on international relevance.

From Oct. 13 to 15, a delegation of school officials from New York, Dallas, Miami and Chicago — members of the Urban School Food Alliance — traveled to Paris to see how cafeteria food is dished out on the other side of the Atlantic.

“In France, our culinary culture is very important to us. We focus on transmitting this model to future generations,” said Catherine Rogy, deputy counselor for agriculture at the Embassy of France in D.C.

London Lessons

Maltese Official Raises Profile of U.K. Diplomacy Academy

by Larry Luxner


As a former top official at Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Mifsud was a key member of the team that negotiated his tiny nation’s entry into the European Union. With only 420,000 inhabitants, Malta — a Mediterranean island twice the size of Washington, D.C. — is the smallest of the EU’s 28 states.

Ten years later, the multilingual Maltese diplomat has taken on a new challenge: to raise the profile of the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD), a venerable institution located on Middlesex Street in the heart of London that’s home to some 150 students hailing from 50 nations.

“LAD is considered one of the best diplomatic academies in the world. We form part of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training,” Mifsud explained. “Besides teaching foreign languages, we teach how to be flexible in thinking, how to engage with the business community and how to act at different levels, from the highest level of diplomacy to more mundane people-to-people skills, as well as the ability to think strategically and geopolitically.”

In the November 2014 Issue

H-1B Rat Race

Visa Hopefuls Need Skill, Savvy to Break Into U.S. Job Market

by Carolyn Cosmos


The H-1B is the diva of visas. It’s an emblem of excellence, allowing U.S. employers to hire highly skilled foreign nationals in “specialty” fields such as technology and engineering. But it’s also known for driving devotees to distraction.

The H-1B is a temporary work visa for non-immigrants that provides entry into the American workplace for up to six years and a possible path to permanent residence. That makes it highly desirable.

However, like many divas, the H-1B is fickle, difficult and demanding. The number of applicants far exceeds the number of slots available each year; employers must embark on a costly, byzantine process to bring foreigners on board; and the coveted visa has found itself at the heart of the contentious debate over immigration reform, as tech companies such as Facebook argue that they need more H-1B visas to fill their ranks, while critics say the program outsources American jobs to cheaper foreign workers.

Whatever the case, demand continues to outstrip H-1B supply — despite the fact that attempting to win the specialized visa can be “a nightmare,” said immigration attorney David Nachman, managing attorney at the Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak Law Group, which has offices in New York, New Jersey and India.

Bright Idea

Ideaventions Uses Inventive Ways to Get Children Hooked on STEM

by Sarah Alaoui


How early is it to immerse your children in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies? High schools in the area increasingly offer specialized STEM courses (see “Schools Try to STEM the Rot in U.S. Education” in last month’s issue), but what about younger students?

According to two parents whose own interest in STEM flourished at the acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., the answer is, it’s “never too early.” Ryan and Juliana Heitz are the founders of Ideaventions, an educational organization that uses inventive, hands-on activities such as 3D printing and fingerprint analysis to make STEM digestible for young ones between the ages of 3 and 13.

“We both went to Thomas Jefferson and were interested in STEM. Fast forward 10 years and we were married with very curious kids,” said Ryan Heitz. “We were looking for STEM education opportunities for them both in and outside of school.”

As their passion for STEM subjects led them to careers in information technology management and environmental science, the couple wanted to recreate the positive science experiences that they had in high school for their own children. The blueprint for Ideaventions began to take shape when they were looking for innovative science classes for their eldest son. They were searching for programs that focused on creative ways of thinking about science that went beyond traditional baking-soda-and-vinegar experiments, but nothing seemed to quite fit.

In the October 2014 Issue

Steering New Course

Schools Try to STEM The Rot in U.S. Education

by Karin Zeitvogel


When it comes to the all-important STEM studies (science, technology, engineering and math), the statistics for American kids are sobering: The United States ranks 52nd in the quality of its mathematics and science education, according to the World Economic Forum.

Among the 34 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States got below-average marks in mathematics test scores on a test given every three years to 15 year olds. American teens ranked just 27th on the tests, called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). In science, the United States did a little better, but still not well. It ranked 20th out of 34 in the OECD-administered test, and unlike other countries that improved their scores from previous years, U.S. performance rates were flat.

And while more students are getting bachelor’s degrees from U.S. universities, fewer of those degrees are in the so-called STEM subjects. A report compiled by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) in April 2012 found that while 24 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States in 1985 were in STEM disciplines, the share had fallen to 18 percent by 2009, even though the relevance of those fields has surged in recent years.

Sneak Peek

Open House Previews Offer Peace of Mind for International Parents

by Sarah Alaoui

Like many American parents around the country each fall, Washington diplomats are packing away their children’s camping gear and bathing suits and preparing them for school — or, in some cases, picking out the right school for them.

For some, it will be their little one’s first foray away from home and into the world of classmates and teachers. For others, the challenge is twofold: a new school in a foreign country.

To facilitate these sensitive transitions, schools around the Washington area, especially international schools, host several open house sessions a year to woo parents and address their concerns.

“As a parent, I would want to know what kind of curriculum the school follows, how they engage their children and what sets them apart from others,” said Vanena Wilmot, the parent of a second-grader at Lycée Rochambeau, an international French school in Bethesda, Md.

Amy Painter, director of communications at the Saint James School in Hagerstown, Md., said open houses allow parents to really get a feel for a particular school.

In the September 2014 Issue

Money Matters

In Some Countries, Financial Literacy Skills Don’t Add Up

by Carolyn Cosmos


When it comes to helping students compete in a fast-changing world, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies have become the watchword in 21st-century education. While these academic disciplines are key to getting ahead, old-fashioned money skills are still just as important. A software engineer may be able to read computer code, for example, but success also depends on whether he can read a checkbook.

In the first large-scale study of its kind, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measured financial literacy among 15-year-old students in 18 countries as part of its PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) global education rankings. The study, “Students and Money – Financial Literacy Skills for the 21st Century,” surveyed knowledge of money management such as understanding credit card and bank statements and paying the mortgage. It dovetailed with PISA’s mission to help students apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world.

Keeping the Faith

Area Muslims Seek Varied Educational Alternatives

by Vanessa H. Larson


In late July, on the first day of Eid al-Fitr — the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan — hundreds of men, women and children, dressed in their finest traditional South Asian, Middle Eastern or West African clothing, gathered for prayers in the ballroom of the Universities at Shady Grove. The campus was just one of three separate locations where the Gaithersburg-based Islamic Center of Maryland held prayer services that morning to accommodate a congregation that on major religious holidays swells to far greater than the mosque’s capacity.

Though exact numbers are hard to come by, the Muslim population of the greater Washington area is believed to have grown significantly in recent years. Maryland’s Montgomery County and Northern Virginia are home to the largest communities, topped by Loudoun County, Va., where the 2010 Religious Congregations & Membership Study estimated that more than 5 percent of residents are Muslim.

In the May 2014 Issue

There’s a Camp for That

Eclectic Programs Sneak in Learning To Prevent Summer Brain Drain

by Stephanie Kanowitz


Summer is synonymous with fun, friends and a break from the routine of school — at least if you’re a kid. But many parents worry about summer brain drain, or essentially three months away from structured learning.

Washington-area camps offer a happy medium — preserving the storied fun associated with summer camp while offering continued education, much of it focused on areas that kids are drawn to and want to learn more about. The parks and recreation departments of most cities, counties and the District provide typical summer day-camp activities such as arts and crafts, sports and water play, but other offerings are narrower in their curricula (also see “Area Offers All Kinds of Camps to Keep All Kinds of Kids Happy” in the May 2012 issue of The Washington Diplomat).

Whether you, or your children, want a traditional experience with outdoor activities and field trips or something more specific such as language immersion or robotics, there’s a camp for that. Here’s a look at some, organized by category.

Winning Strategies

Andrew Heiskell Awards Honor Innovators in International Education

by Carolyn Cosmos


The Institute of International Education (IIE) announced its 2014 Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education on Jan. 27, lauding 13 university and college campuses worldwide among more than 1,200 higher education institutions.

The four award categories honor outstanding initiatives in study abroad programs; internationalizing a campus; internationalizing a community college; and international partnerships. They are meant to draw attention to initiatives breaking boundaries and going, metaphorically and literally, where faculty and students haven’t gone before. Honorees included schools from Wisconsin, India, British Columbia, Michigan, Poland, Mexico, Texas and elsewhere.

In the January 2014 Issue

Breaking Down Doors

International Students in U.S. Reach Record-High Numbers

by Carolyn Cosmos


The waves of international college students landing on the shores of the United States are reaching new heights, hitting a record high of nearly 820,000 foreign students in the U.S. during the 2012-13 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education’s latest Open Doors report.

Most of the growth — a 7 percent increase over 2011-12 figures — was driven by China and Saudi Arabia. According to the Institute of International Education, “There are now 40 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than a decade ago, and the rate of increase has risen steadily for the past three years.”

Likewise, the number of American students studying abroad is at an all-time high, with more than 280,000 heading overseas.

This cross-cultural surge is reshaping not only higher education around the world, but also local economies. In fact, foreign students poured $24 billion into the U.S. economy during the 2012-13 school year alone, reported the Association of International Educators (NAFSA).

New Voices

Chinese, Other ‘Critical’ Languages Make Themselves Heard in D.C. Schools

by Gail Sullivan


Walk around Washington, D.C., for a while and you could easily overhear conversations in half a dozen languages. Historically, the language offerings at D.C. schools have not reflected the diversity of the city’s population. But that is changing as local schools — public, private and parochial — push the boundaries of traditional high school language education with advanced immersion programs.

These include courses in what the U.S. government considers “critical languages,” such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Russian, Turkish and Urdu — marking a shift away from the conventional language classes that taught Spanish and French to legions of American students.

A year ago, the DC Public Charter School Board approved Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, a Chinese language immersion elementary school in Ward 5, paving the way for the creation of the city’s first public charter language immersion secondary school.

In the November 2013 Issue

Casting Wide Net

Universities Prep New Generation To Secure World’s Cyberspace

by Audrey Hoffer


Computers may not exactly control the world, but much of the world functions thanks to the help of computers — so securing them has become the next frontier in higher education.

“Everyone who serves their country in a diplomatic capacity must understand cybersecurity as an issue that affects all their programs at home and overseas,” said Thomas Kellermann, a professor at American University’s School of International Service and vice president of Cyber Security for Trend Micro.

Every issue from politics to economics to business has a cyber dimension to it and is influenced by, and can be manipulated by, computers, he said.

Learning to Think

Project Zero Teaches Students To Think About Thinking

by Gail Sullivan


Education is a divisive issue in the District, where educational opportunities are unevenly distributed by race and class. Politicized topics like teacher tenure, school closings, charters and mandatory testing tend to dominate public discourse, while conversations about students and how they learn take a backseat.

But in the background of those higher-profile debates, another conversation is happening among teachers in D.C., as a critical mass is steadily building around a body of research from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education called Project Zero, which dissects the learning (and teaching) process.

In 1967, researchers began to study ways to make people better thinkers. The movement was spurred by philosopher Nelson Goodman, who wanted to study and improve education through the arts, believing that arts learning should be examined as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” knowledge had been firmly established about the field; hence, the project’s name.

Fighting to Learn

Veteran Educator Directs Iraq’s First American-Style University

by Larry Luxner


Just 40 miles from the Iranian border, a modern campus of sleek buildings constructed from Jerusalem marble and tinted glass overlooks the city of Sulaimani (Sulaymaniyah) in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Within its 418 acres, some 1,000 young men and women live in spacious dorm rooms and study with the aid of 10 sophisticated computer labs containing hundreds of internet-connected PCs and a library boasting thousands of English-language volumes.

When they’re not hitting the books or cramming for a test, these lucky students have a world of extracurricular activities to choose from — everything from basketball to a local chapter of the Jane Austen Society.

In the October 2013 Issue

Immersion, 24-7

Boarding Schools Offer Home Away From Home

by Audrey Hoffer


Bustling lives in Washington are the norm for diplomatic families. And when both spouses are professionally engaged, it can be difficult to carve out time to help with their child’s education.

Diplomatic tenure in the nation’s capital also often coincides with high school years, a critically important period for teens when they seek independence with one hand while holding onto a parent’s coattails with the other.

Boarding high schools can be a good option for busy parents and teens seeking a more immersive learning experience. Boarding schools, where students study and live with their fellow classmates during the school year, are more typically associated with other nations such as Britain. But an elite niche of boarding schools exists in the Washington area, and although less well known than private day schools, they are no less popular among families that choose them.

Premature Victory?

Catania on D.C. School Reforms: Mission Not Accomplished

by Martin Austermuhle


When D.C. public school students returned to class on Aug. 26, city officials projected an air of confidence.

After years of marginal gains in test scores and flat enrollment, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson were able to say that the education reform that kicked off in 2007 seemed to be bearing fruit: Test scores in the 2012-13 school year jumped more than at any point since 2008, and even students in the city’s most troubled areas seemed to be picking up reading and math faster than before.

The feeling of rebirth wasn’t only evident in the classroom, though, but also in the buildings themselves: Gray and Henderson celebrated the re-opening of two of the city’s most historic high schools, both of which had either been fully rebuilt (Dunbar High School in Truxton Circle) or dramatically renovated (Cardozo Senior High School in Columbia Heights) — also see “Huge Modernization Campaign Transforms D.C. School System” in the November 2011 issue of The Washington Diplomat.

One man, though, was less impressed.

In the September 2013 Issue

Russian Resurgence

Moscow Piques Student Interest As Geopolitical Relevance Rises

by Audrey Hoffer


“Russian studies are enjoying a slow but steady resurrection on college campuses across the U.S.,” said Anton Fedyashin, executive director of American University’s Initiative for Russian Culture (IRC).

There is no single reason for the renewed interest in Russian studies, but certainly here in Washington, proximity to the seat of power in the nation’s capital attracts students with a passion for global affairs.

“Diving in and studying another culture and language is common here,” said Eric Lohr, director of the IRC. Many students in the area aspire to jobs with federal agencies, embassies, think tanks, government contractors or trade associations, which comprise the backbone of the city.

Beyond the city’s institutional character, the popularity of Russia-centric coursework tends to rise and fall depending on what’s happening in the nation of 140 million.

A big spike in interest came in the late 1980s with Perestroika, but it dropped in the 1990s after the Soviet Union broke up and Russia was no longer a dominant world power, said Michael David-Fox, a professor and historian of modern Russian and Soviet history at Georgetown University. “Interest in a country’s language, history, culture is to a certain extent always correlated to its place in the world.”

New Beginnings

Starting School in Foreign Country Is Learning Experience for Kids, and Parents

by Audrey Hoffer


“I don’t want to go to school!” Practically every parent on the planet has heard that phrase at one time or another. But hearing, “Why did we have to move here?” adds another layer to a parent’s angst.

That’s because going back to school can be a chore for any child, but starting a new school in a new country is a whole different mess altogether.

Foreign families confront a host of issues when learning about U.S. schools, and though the cultural barrier may seem insurmountable, practical solutions abound, often in plain sight.

In particular, many schools here in the nation’s capital have a long tradition of welcoming new students from abroad — including the children of diplomats — and introducing them to the seemingly foreign American education system.

Still, change is always difficult for children, especially teens, and moving to another country with a new language and culture is particularly unnerving at the start of the academic year. It can be just as daunting for the parents.

“The organization of the schools here is different,” said Catherine Mathieu, the World Bank family network coordinator. “For many cultures, it’s strange that we, the parents, are supposed to be very active in the school. We’re supposed to be inside the school talking to teachers and involved with the PTA. For most of us this is new.

In the May 2013 Issue

Job Jiu-Jitsu

Prepping College Grads for Life, and Work, Beyond the Classroom

by Carolyn Cosmos


Think protocol is easy? Tell that to President Obama, who was scalded by the British press early in his first term for giving British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a set of “region 1” U.S.-coded DVDs that don’t work in Europe. Or to his wife, Michelle, who broke royal protocol in giving Queen Elizabeth II a hug at Buckingham Palace.

The truth is that diplomatic protocol is a complicated business, even if you’re dealing with a third secretary from Tuvalu, let alone the Queen of England. We spoke to two experts on diplomatic protocol to give readers a primer on how to navigate thorny issues such as gift giving, communication, attire, food, alcohol, meetings and seating arrangements.

Lukrecija Maljkovic Atanasovska is the former director of protocol at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, and is currently the director of the Protocol Academies of Macedonia and Kosovo. Chris Young served as the chief of protocol and director of international affairs for the U.S. state of Georgia from 2005 to 2012 and is now the executive director of the Protocol School of Washington. Here are their thoughts on protocol best practices.

Experts in Etiquette

Practical Tips for Mastering Protocol Like a Pro

by Dave Seminara


Watch what you say: That young intern heading into Washington on the Metro might be training with the CIA. That’s partly because the U.S. intelligence agency offers one of the most generous scholarships for college students — $18,000 a year to successful applicants, with few strings attached.

Besides the requirement of working for the CIA after graduation for one and a half years for every year of scholarship aid received, recipients have to maintain good grades while at school. But even though the CIA is best known for espionage and intelligence, that’s not all it or any other U.S. intelligence agency does — and there are quite a few of those agencies. So students with a CIA scholarship can study whatever they want.

Not to be outdone, the DIA, or Defense Intelligence Agency, offers students majoring in everything from international relations to toxicology paid internships or generous scholarships. Seniors in high school can apply for the scholarship, and then have to get their choice of university approved by the DIA.

In the January 2013 Issue

Way Off Course

From Star Trek to Springsteen, Colleges Go Where No School’s Gone Before

by Karin Zeitvogel


U.S. universities are known around the world for providing students with a top-flight education — and a course offered at Syracuse University in upstate New York fits that image nicely. Students who sign up for the course explore the final frontier and boldly go where no man has gone before, using Star Trek to study some of today’s most pressing technological issues.

The course filled up the first day it was advertised back in 2011.

“Star Trek and the Information Age” is the brainchild of professor Anthony Rotolo, who said he wanted to offer something that would help interest students in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

“Star Trek offers a wealth of science and technology topics that can be discussed in the context of current questions or challenges in these fields or in society at large,” Rotolo told The Washington Diplomat in an email.

Spy School

CIA, Other Government Agencies Offer Scholarships for Intelligent Intelligence

by Karin Zeitvogel


Watch what you say: That young intern heading into Washington on the Metro might be training with the CIA. That’s partly because the U.S. intelligence agency offers one of the most generous scholarships for college students — $18,000 a year to successful applicants, with few strings attached.

Besides the requirement of working for the CIA after graduation for one and a half years for every year of scholarship aid received, recipients have to maintain good grades while at school. But even though the CIA is best known for espionage and intelligence, that’s not all it or any other U.S. intelligence agency does — and there are quite a few of those agencies. So students with a CIA scholarship can study whatever they want.

Not to be outdone, the DIA, or Defense Intelligence Agency, offers students majoring in everything from international relations to toxicology paid internships or generous scholarships. Seniors in high school can apply for the scholarship, and then have to get their choice of university approved by the DIA.

In the November 2012 Issue

Sense of Community

Multicultural and Pragmatic, Community Colleges Go Global

by Carolyn Cosmos


YPei-Wen Liu, a business undergraduate student from Taiwan who is living and studying near D.C.’s Dupont Circle, says she texts his father in Taiwan every day.

“If I’m very busy and forget it, he’ll complain!” she says, with affectionate laughter.

Her parents own an iron works company back home, and “I’m planning on going back to Taiwan to run the business with an older brother when they retire,” she said, noting that she and her brother plan to take the company global.

A graduate of Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., Liu began her academic journey in the United States at the two-year institution located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She transferred this fall to the Dupont Circle campus of Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School to obtain her four-year college degree.

Mecca of Learning

With Its Sprawling Education City, Qatar Aims to Be Knowledge Hub

by Dave Seminara


Nasser Al Khori knew he wanted an American education, but he didn’t bargain on getting it in his native Qatar. His father was educated at Seattle University and most of his classmates at the elite American School of Doha were planning to study in the United States. Al Khori was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania and was set to pack his bags for Philadelphia until he attended a presentation from Carnegie Mellon University in Doha.

“I decided to stay here because the business school at Carnegie is one of the top 10 in the world,” said Al Khori, who graduated in May and now works as a program associate at the Qatar Foundation in Doha. . “And I figured I could get the same exact education right here at home as I would in the States.”

Room to Grow

International Student House Offers Roof and Relationships

by Martin Austermuhle


Thousands of international students come to Washington, D.C., to study every year, jumping headfirst into a country and culture that may be completely alien to them. Beyond navigating the rituals of academic and social life in the United States, they’re faced with the task of finding housing in a city that boasts an expensive — and extremely competitive — housing market.

In that, the International Student House is a refreshing surprise. Located in the heart of the desirable Dupont Circle neighborhood, the 100-year-old Tudor-style residence rises five stories over R Street, resembling a home that would be better placed in England than the U.S. capital. Inside, up to 100 graduate students from across the globe share both roof and relationship, living in a community that celebrates the many countries and cultures from which they hail.

Established in 1934 by the Quakers, the International Student House in D.C. — then located on New Hampshire Avenue and home to only 18 students from Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, and American universities — sought to ease the transition of international students arriving in Washington for undergraduate and graduate studies. It also served as a refuge for students of color, both local and international, who were effectively shut out of rooming houses throughout large parts of the city due to de facto segregation.

In the October 2012 Issue

Yin and Yang

U.S.-China Partnership Marked By Collaboration, Competition

by Carolyn Cosmos


Yuan Wan is the son of Chinese government officials who grew up in the difficult years of the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution. Neither of his parents had a good high school education, nor did they attend college, although both acquired degrees later in life.

His parents wanted his own schooling to be better, Wan said. So they bought children’s books for him, subscribed to every magazine imaginable, supported him in his studies, and talked to his teachers.

When Wan developed a love of math in high school, his father wanted him to pursue something practical such as engineering, but his mother persuaded him to allow Wan to go for what he describes as his “passion”: physics.

Wan now has two physics degrees from Nanjing University and is working toward his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., in the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.


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World of Collaboration

With Flurry of New Programs, Meridian Moves With the Times

by Gail Sullivan


In 1919, after retiring from the Foreign Service, Irwin Boyle Laughlin built Meridian House at 1630 Crescent Place in Washington, D.C. But retirement didn’t suit him, and he returned to the diplomatic corps, serving as ambassador to Greece, and then Spain until 1933. Like its owner, Meridian House found renewed purpose in the service of international diplomacy: In 1960, the Laughlin family sold the house to a newly created nonprofit dedicated to international understanding.

Today, the Meridian International Center, which occupies Meridian House and the adjacent White-Meyer House, is a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering innovative international diplomacy through the exchange of people, ideas and culture.

Sporting Chance

Rugby, Cricket, Fencing, Other Sports Take on Traditional American Athletics

by Martin Austermuhle


When you think of the stereotypical American high school jock, what comes to mind? It’s probably a beefy football player sporting a varsity jacket, less concerned with education than excelling on the gridiron. Or maybe a tall basketball star who has been recruited by the nation’s top university sports programs, lured by the promise of scholarships and stardom.

Those may still exist, but for many area schools, traditional U.S. sports like football, baseball and basketball are being supplemented by teams and clubs that offer new athletic opportunities — many of them in sports that may have huge followings abroad but have until now remained on the fringes of American life.

And these “foreign” sports go far beyond the most obvious transplant: soccer, which — although not as popular on the professional level in the United States as it is around the world — is widely played by American schoolchildren (hence the cliché “soccer mom”).

In the September 2012 Issue

A King’s Vision

Thanks to Scholarship, Saudi Students Return to U.S. in Droves

by Suzanne Kurtz


After living in the United States for six years, Hani Aljuaid has developed a taste for American coffee.

“Every morning, I go to Starbucks. It’s a habit I picked up” while studying at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the 25-year-old from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “But at night, I have to have Arabic coffee.”

Along with a newfound penchant for caffeine, Aljuaid recently completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics, one of nearly 68,000 Saudis studying this year at more than 1,200 universities and colleges across the United States as a participant in the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP).

‘Dream Job’

New International Affairs Head Wants The World for University of Maryland

by Suzanne Kurtz


In 1976, when Ross Lewin was 16 years old, he left his Los Angeles home for the first time to spend the year in Hannover and Hamburg, Germany, as an exchange student with the program Youth for Understanding.

Decades later, he still recalls this experience “to see the world from outside of the U.S.” as “incredibly formative.” Eventually, it would also help shape both his worldview and career.

As the newly appointed associate vice president for international affairs at the University of Maryland, Lewin said he hopes to bring new international programs to the College Park campus “and transform the lives of students, the way mine had been.”

Language of 21st Century

Op-Ed: To Cpmpete, Americans’ Future Has to Be Multilingual

by Linda Moore


We Americans must confront a stark disadvantage we face when it comes to the global economy. Some eight in 10 Americans speak only English, and the number of schools teaching a foreign language is in decline, according to a new study by the Council on Foreign Relations. But the opposite is true among our economic competitors.

While some 200 million Chinese students are learning English, only 24,000 Americans are studying Chinese, U.S. Department of Education statistics say. Foreign language degrees account for only 1 percent of all U.S. undergraduate degrees. And fewer than 2 percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad in a given year, the Education Department says.

Our nation is largely monolingual but is entering an increasingly multilingual world. More than half of European Union citizens speak a language other than their mother tongue, and more than a quarter speak at least three languages. This is because additional languages are studied in European primary and secondary schools, and are taken up by European college students in much larger numbers than in the United States. 

In the May 2012 Issue

The ‘Stan’ Surge

Rise of Central Asian Students In U.S. Reflects Region’s Growth

by Carolyn Cosmos


Here’s a puzzle: College campuses across the United States have seen a 32 percent increase in international students since 2000, reports the Institute of International Education (IIE) — even though global test scores show that the U.S. education system is lagging far behind its overseas counterparts such as powerhouses like Finland and Singapore.

High school students in the United States ranked 32nd among nations in math proficiency tests last year and were 17th in reading, according to a study headed by Harvard professor Paul Peterson.

However odd this conundrum, the steady stream of international students coming to the United States makes sense, said Allan Goodman, president and chief executive officer of IIE, a nonprofit based in New York City.

Endless Summer

Area Offers All Kinds of Camps To Keep All Kinds of Kids Happy

by Rachael Bade


Some of my favorite memories growing up were created during summers spent hundreds of miles from home. Every year, my mom and dad drove me to auditions for summer ballet camps with professional dance companies — Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Austin, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre.

When the last school bell rang for summer dismissal in June, my parents would give me five weeks’ worth of goodnight kisses and bid me farewell at the airport. I spent my breaks in square-rimmed studios with dozens of wannabe ballerinas training under some of the world’s best choreographers.

Summer camps — even those located just a few miles away from home — are a constructive way for children of all ages to discover and nurture their special talents. Many don’t just help kids pass the time on those long summer days. They help them figure out what makes them unique.

In the January 2012 Issue


Indian Influx

Higher Education’s Frequent Flyers: International Students Flock to U.S.

by Carolyn Cosmos


Although times are tough around the world, the economic climate hasn’t dampened the recent surge in higher education exchanges, with internationally minded students increasingly crossing borders to seek their college degrees and broaden their cultural horizons.

The influx is bringing top talent from emerging nations to U.S. colleges and universities, which, despite constant bad press about America’s flailing education system, remain among the best in the world. Many of these students return to help their homelands prosper, leading to some controversy that the U.S. government should be investing more in visas and incentives for these foreign recruits to stay and build up the U.S. economy.

But regardless, their presence, even if only temporary, provides a much-needed financial boost to U.S. schools, with international students often able to pay full or higher levels of tuition. Moreover, it contributes to the prestige and diversity of U.S. colleges and universities, who are training some of the world’s brightest minds and its future leaders.



Hungry to Learn

D.C. International Food Days Offer Students Culinary-Cultural Adventure

by Julie Poucher Harbin


It’s not every day that you get to meet a real prince. But on Oct. 26, the students of Miner Elementary School in Northeast D.C. did just that when 500 school children between the ages of 6 and 11 got a taste of Swedish food, culture and royalty firsthand.

Swedish Prince Daniel Westling, as part of his first official visit to the United States, visited Miner Elementary on the occasion of Nordic Food Day, the first of four new International Food Day events being held this school year by D.C. Public Schools Food Services in partnership with the longstanding Embassy Adoption Program, itself a partnership with the Washington Performing Arts Society.

Fifth-grader Keith Herbert and fourth-grader Julisa Williams, the official Miner student hosts, dressed as a Viking and Swedish storybook character Pippi Longstocking, respectively, to welcome the prince.

Julisa held a card that said “god dag” — good day in Swedish. Keith, who had been studying Sweden for weeks in his classroom as part of the Embassy Adoption Program, said he’d already gotten a small taste of Swedish culture that morning — traditional lingonberry juice for breakfast in the school cafeteria.



Connected Classrooms

One World Makes Planet Smaller for D.C. Students

by Larry Luxner


More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, yet nine in 10 American high school students can’t find that war-ravaged country on a world map.

Fewer than 40 percent of young adults know that China and India are the only two countries with more than 1 billion inhabitants each. Equally troubling, 74 percent of American students believe English is the world’s most commonly spoken language (Mandarin is). And while just about every teenager in America has a Facebook account, only 11 percent of these kids use the Internet to follow current events around the world.

These findings, taken from the latest National Geographic Literacy Survey, deeply worry Asjed Hussain, an 18-year-old freshman at Georgetown University — and one of three local “project ambassadors” with the One World Youth Project.

OWYP, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004, aims to fight ignorance about the world by using email, Skype and Facebook to pair U.S. secondary schools with classrooms in other countries, and eventually by broadening the program internationally.


In the November 2011 Issue


Campus Diplomacy

Ambassadors Reach U.S. Students With Regular Visits to Universities

by Stephanie Kanowitz


Education is the surest antidote to misconception, so it should come as little surprise that many ambassadors to the United States try to inform people about their countries via many avenues, especially the media and politicians. But beyond the usual outlets — and the confines of the Beltway — lies a vast community that’s home to an eager audience and the future generation of leaders: American students, hundreds of thousands of them all the way from Washington, D.C., to Washington state.

“I reach audiences that I otherwise would not reach,” said Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie, who has spoken at universities including Eastern Illinois and Duke. “Of course, I appear in the media, I occasionally write articles in the media, but these don’t reach everyone, and the United States is not just Washington. I do my job in Washington, but part of my duty is to reach out and make sure that public opinion is well informed, and I’m using universities and schools as a kind of multiplier because these people are connected to their communities, they are leaders and thinkers.”



Overdue Makeover

Huge Modernization Campaign Transforms D.C. School System

by Martin Austermuhle


Cardozo Senior High School cuts an imposing figure, a hulking structure that overlooks Washington, D.C., from its perch between Florida Avenue and Clifton Street, NW, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Originally built as Central High School in 1916 and intended for use by white students in the city’s segregated school system, architect William Ittner designed the building in a Collegiate Gothic style, with limestone trim and tile work juxtaposed against the dark red bricks used for the majority of the construction.

According to observers at the time, Ittner “conceived the modern school as a splendid civic monument, to become a potent factor in the academic development of the community.” The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.


In the October 2011 Issue


Game, Set, Match

U.S. Plays Up Power of Sports In Win-Win Approach to Diplomacy

by Jacob Comenetz


The use of sports to foster peace can be traced to ancient Greece, when the kings of the dominant city-states signed a truce, or ekecheiria (literally, a “holding of hands”), guaranteeing the safety of athletes, their families and pilgrims traveling to and from the Olympic Games.

“During the truce, wars were suspended, armies were prohibited from entering Elis [the site of the ancient Olympics] or threatening the Games, and legal disputes and the carrying out of death penalties were forbidden,” according to the Perseus Digital Library of Tufts University.

Today, sports have again taken center field as an instrument for promoting international harmony as the U.S. Department of State, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has rapidly expanded the range and geographical reach of its sports-related engagement programs.


Also See: UAE Embassy Scores With Women’s Soccer and UAE Helps Joplin Students



Untested Waters

Schools Size Up Teachers Using Value-Added Evaluation Measures

by Carolyn Cosmos


The heated debate over how to improve America’s education system has in recent years centered largely on teachers — how they perform and what to do if they’re not up to the task. But to judge that performance requires evaluating it — a concept that’s often thrown around in the debate but given little penetrating thought. It’s one thing to simply say bad teachers should be fired, but what’s bad? How exactly do you define the metrics of success? How much weight should factors ranging from career experience to test scores to student surroundings be given?

Those gritty details of evaluation criteria have a tremendous impact, determining how to implement reforms aimed at boosting the quality of the country’s teaching workforce — not to mention determining who gets to hang onto their jobs and which schools receive precious funds.


In the September 2011 Issue


Under Pressure

Are the Rigors of Testing Producing Generation of Students Under Strain?

by Stephanie Kanowitz


Photo: Leah-Anne Thompson / iStock

If you’re older than 20, chances are you look back on childhood as an easy time when the biggest decision you faced was when that next game of tag with your friends would be. But youngsters today might have different memories when they’re older. They may look back at their formative years and say, “Remember your standardized test prep?”

Case in point: A kindergartener in Arlington, Va., tells her family about her day at school, and after listening to what she learned, her third-grade brother says, “You should really remember what you’re learning in kindergarten because they’re going to be testing you on some of this stuff in third grade.”



Enterprising Revolution

LearnServe Egypt Exchange Seizes Moment of Opportunity

by Jacob Comenetz


Photo: Larry Luxner

On Jan. 25, the “Day of Rage” that sparked the Egyptian revolution and the demise of President Hosni Mubarak, Omar Abdel-Maksoud, a mechanical engineering student at the British University in Cairo, received a Facebook invitation to “join the revolution” in Tahrir Square.

Clicking “maybe,” he called a friend who had already joined the tens of thousands of protestors thronging the square. Hearing that not much yet was actually happening, Abdel-Maksoud told the friend he would call back later. He had to get ready for a trip to Turkey in any case.

Like many young Egyptians, Abdel-Maksoud expected the protests, a recurring facet of life in Cairo, to die away. During the week he was away, the protests did the opposite: they escalated.


In the May 2011 Issue


Speaking the Same Language

Despite High-Tech Translation Tools, Local Mulilingual Learning Thrives

by Jacob Comenetz


Photos: Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures

In a recent video segment for the New York Times called, “The Monolinguist’s Crutch,” assistant technology editor Sam Grobart gleefully divulges that he can’t remember any of the Spanish he learned during six years of taking it in school.

Does this concern him? No, he says, because “now, thanks to technology, I don’t have to!”

Grobart goes on to demonstrate the capabilities of several new smartphone applications, including UN Translator, which can understand dozens of languages. “All I have to do is type in the words I don’t know,” he said. The app gives a passable translation that allows him to at least get the gist.



Model Teachers

Singapore, Finland Offer Lessons With Their Emphasis on Educators

by Dena Levitz


Photo: U.S. Department of Education

Education is not only about learning — it’s about the teachers who make learning possible. Education has also always been something of a competitive pursuit, with rankings and scores showing how school districts, college campuses and even entire nations stack up on a relative scale.

Earlier this spring, mixing international camaraderie and competition-driven improvement, nations came together to learn from one another’s education systems — and specifically, how different countries treat the teachers who form the backbone of those systems.

In mid-March, the U.S. Department of Education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), along with various other groups joined together to put on the first-ever International Summit on the Teaching Profession.