DAYBREAK DAILY: Virginia, Maryland grappling with education reform

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly cloudy with early fog and highs in the low 60s with a slight chance of rain.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Various reports on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination; Grand opening of Tanger Outlets at National Harbor; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

GRADING THE SCHOOLS: It’s all about the tests, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Most of the state's schools would earn letter grades of A or B based on preliminary data used to establish a school-grading formula approved Thursday by the Virginia Board of Education. The A through F scale will assign schools a grade based largely on state standardized test scores. The system, developed in response to legislation the General Assembly passed earlier this year, will debut in October 2014. The letter grades will complement existing state accreditation and federal accountability rating systems.

“The board delayed a vote on the matter last month to allow more public comment and in response to school divisions' concerns about the impact of the test scores of students who are just learning English. But it wanted to move forward in approving the scale so schools would know in advance what they're being graded on. Educators have criticized the law and lobbied the board for more time to study the scale.”

MEANWHILE: Too fast, too soon?, per the Baltimore Sun, “A panel of state lawmakers grilled Maryland's top school officials Thursday over whether education reforms are being executed too quickly and putting undue stress on teachers. Senators on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee told state schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery that they have been bombarded by concerns from teachers and parents.

“Many, they said, complained about how the state is simultaneously implementing three big programs: a new testing system, new ways to evaluate teachers and a more rigorous set of education standards known as the Common Core. "A lot of them have talked about tremendous stress," said Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Frederick County Democrat, adding that some teachers say they're ready to give up and others now take medication for stress.”

AND THIS: What’s in a name?, per the AP, “Hundreds of teachers and school employees are gathering in Richmond for the Virginia Education Association's annual two-day conference. The VEA says the theme of this year's meeting is “Reforming School Reform.” It begins tonight and concludes Saturday afternoon.”

KNOCKOUT GAME: Of stupidity and cruelty, per the Washington Post, “One woman was punched in the face as she crested a hill on her bicycle in Northwest Washington. Another was hit in the back of the head as she walked to a bus stop. Neither was robbed, and after one attack, the young men laughed as they made their escape. D.C. police say the recent attacks in Columbia Heights may be part of a disturbing trend that assailants across the country call the “knockout game.” Youths challenge one another to knock out a random person with a single punch.

“The Internet is giving attackers bragging rights far beyond their circle of friends or even their neighborhoods. One particularly brutal video from New Jersey showing a young man hitting a woman from behind, sending her face first to the pavement, has a half-million views on YouTube. In recent years, such attacks have turned deadly in St. Louis and Upstate New York.”

THE FILIBUSTER: Change is in the air, per the New York Times, “The Senate approved the most fundamental alteration of its rules in more than a generation on Thursday, ending the minority party’s ability to filibuster most presidential nominees in response to the partisan gridlock that has plagued Congress for much of the Obama administration.

“Furious Republicans accused Democrats of a power grab, warning them that they would deeply regret their action if they lost control of the Senate next year and the White House in years to come. Invoking the Founding Fathers and the meaning of the Constitution, Republicans said Democrats were trampling the minority rights the framers intended to protect. But when the vote was called, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader who was initially reluctant to force the issue, prevailed 52 to 48.”

JFK: Of a flame -- not that one, per the Los Angeles Times, “Officials from USC and Los Angeles will light the Olympic torch at the Coliseum for 24 hours beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday to honor former President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death. Kennedy gave the Democratic National Convention nomination speech in the Coliseum in July of 1960.”

STORMS GONE WILD: Assessment time, per the Chicago Tribune, “As rain soaked the shredded remains of Washington (Ill.) neighborhoods on Thursday, damage assessment teams began surveying the wreckage. Their findings — and the initial ones were almost uniformly grim — will be used in the state’s request for federal disaster assistance. “In some cases, it’s hard to tell if there is a property or what the address is,” said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

“Monken spoke with reporters before the teams of federal, state and local officials began evaluating the damage. At the first home, a missing wall revealed a wooden chair in what appeared to be the kitchen. In the front lawn, a blue Ford Taurus had collapsed on itself, the steering wheel protruding from the shattered windshield. As assessors marched down the block, they found more of the same.”

PHONES AND FLIGHTS: Just the facts, per The Hill, “The Federal Communications Commission will take up a proposal to allow airline passengers to talk on their cellphones during flights.

“FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a proposal Thursday to consider allowing passengers to use their phones above 10,000 feet. The proposal, scheduled for a vote on Dec. 12, would not allow cellphone use during take-offs or landings. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration scrapped its ban on the use of electronic devices during take-offs and landings. But the FCC has authority over the use of cellphones and other communications devices in the air.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Bob Woodward took a not-so-veiled shot at Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman in an interview this week, suggesting that the journalists had failed to coherently report on the NSA leaks and bungled their handling of their source, Edward Snowden. “I wish [Snowden] had come to me instead of others, particularly The Guardian, and I would have said to him, ‘Let’s not reveal who you are. Let’s make you a protected source and give me time with this data and let’s sort it out and present it in a coherent way," Woodward told Larry King.

“Both Greenwald (then with 'The Guardian') and Gellman (Woodward's own Post colleague) worked directly with Snowden and published the first and most groundbreaking coverage of the NSA's surveillance practices. Taken together, the revelation about U.S. spying practices has been described as the scoop of the decade, and among the most significant since Woodward's own reporting on Watergate.”

IS IT REALLY NEEDED?: Gansler’s pledge proposal, per Gazette.Net, “Despite limits in Maryland election law, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is still asking his opponents to pledge to keep outside spending out of the 2014 Democratic primary. Campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock said Thursday that it might take some agreement as to when the money is paid, but Gansler’s request that all Democratic candidates for governor agree to contribute to charity half the cost of any advertisement about them run by an outside organization still stands.”

COMPLICATED: It just is, per the Frederick News-Post, “State Sen. David Brinkley said he plans to ask for legal guidance on whether someone who owns a business, collects retirement benefits or earns other private income could serve as Frederick County executive. The Frederick County charter set to take effect next year stipulates that an executive cannot "participate in any private occupation for compensation," and as election season heats up, some are wondering exactly what those words mean. After a meeting with Frederick County commissioners Thursday, Brinkley said he doesn't think the charter writers meant that an executive can't earn any income outside the $95,000 annual salary that comes with the office.”

CREIGH DEEDS: And the budget, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell indicated Thursday that information gathered from a review of the events leading to the attack on Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, could factor into the budget he is crafting. “If there’s new resources needed, we’ll look at it,” he said Thursday morning on MSNBC.

“McDonnell, who is in Arizona for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, has directed Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel to conduct an internal review of the events leading up to Tuesday’s attack and make recommendations.”

SILVER LINE: And a loan, per the Loudoun Times-Mirror, “Loudoun's Board of Supervisors in the months ahead must decide whether to pursue a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan to help contain costs associated with Metro's Silver Line extension into Loudoun County.

If the county moves ahead with seeking the federal dollars, it will have to include the cost of constructing parking garages in its overall share of the Silver Line project's tab. Without the garages, Loudoun County's Metro-related expenses have been estimated at approximately $260 million to $270 million for capital costs and $10 million to $20 million in annual operational costs once the project is completed.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Got migraines? A reported 40 million Americans live with chronic headaches, and the American Headache Society is warning sufferers to avoid prescription painkillers as a first treatment for migraines.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is American University historian Allan Lichtman, who will discuss the assassination of John F. Kennedy, exactly 50 years ago. Also, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson talks about building height, marijuana and the 2014 campaign.

--Skip Wood