Letter: Visit Local Schools

Letter: Visit Local Schools

To the Editor:

The fact that a superintendent of a small school district has to advertise school system information as "No Politics, Nothing Personal, No Rhetoric" should be a cause for concern in itself. Here are a few counterpoints to the "ACPS facts":

1) "ACPS and the City of Alexandria use the same auditor for its operating and overall budgets. ACPS budgets have received national awards each of the past three years as the auditors have commended our financial reports and processes. The recent CIP procedural review was part of our additional ongoing reviews of each department." It may be time to hire a new auditor if millions of mismanaged Capital Improvement funds went unnoticed until the issue was brought to light by unpaid vendors.

2) "The National School Boards Association just recognized ACPS with a First Place Magna award for its strategic planning, one of 15 school communities in the country to receive this award." A lot of things look great on paper and don't measure up in real life.

3) "T.C. Williams had its highest scores ever in Writing, Reading, and Mathematics last year." T.C. Williams is the only public high school in the city. For the number of administrators assigned to oversee the management of the school this increase in scores comes at a significant cost to taxpayers. Even with so much oversight and spending T.C. Williams saw an increase in the number of students dropping out in the past year.

4) "Advanced Placement enrollment was at an all time-high last year while maintaining historically high scores ... enrollments in AP courses are even higher this year." According to the Virginia Department of Education the 2008-2009 school year AP enrollment was 1,292 students. Last year saw AP enrollment at just 765 students.

5) "More eighth graders took Algebra I or Geometry last year than ever before ... with a 99 percent pass rate ... enrollments are even higher this year in eighth-grade Algebra I." The overall trend shows that middle school math achievement is in a decline across ACPS. Francis Hammond 1 has a 66 percent pass rate in math, Francis Hammond 2 has a 64 percent pass rate in math, and Francis Hammond 3 has a 65 percent pass rate in math.

6) "PreSchool enrollments have increased seven-fold in ACPS in the past three years." The Virginia Preschool Initiative, the City of Alexandria Joint Preschool program, and a downturn in the economy causing parents to seek public preschool options have all contributed to this increase in enrollment.

7) "Elementary math and writing scores are up." According to the Virginia Department of Education writing scores at Alexandria's elementary schools are down. As are reading and history scores. Science scores have remained flat. Schools such as Jefferson Houston have pass rates of 67 percent in English, 62 percent in math, 51 percent in science, 51 percent in writing, and 38 percent in history.

8) "Enrollment has increased from 10,600 in the spring of 2008 to 12,400 in 2012, about a 17 percent increase." Increased residential development, relocation of government and military jobs, and decline in private school enrollment have caused this increase in enrollment.

9) "Budget increases in the past four years have averaged 2 percent per year as per pupil costs have decreased." An increase in student enrollment will decrease the per pupil cost. Over a million dollars of public education funding for ACPS went to the salaries and tax sheltered annuity payments of just six Central Office senior staff, including the superintendent.

10) "We have created an amazing new curriculum which replaced our ‘pacing guides’ based on the SOLs." The "amazing new curriculum" is like the old pacing guides, based on the SOLs. The curriculum was haphazardly unveiled all at once and proved to be flawed and has had to be rewritten at least three times in some subject areas. The constant reworking of the curriculum has disrupted classroom teaching and has created low teacher buy-in.

11) "One of our many schools to receive recognition this year, Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy is Virginia's School of Character and is one of 22 public schools recognized nationally for their accomplishments." The staff and students of Lyles-Crouch are to be commended for this award and for their ability to work around the constant disruption to learning which has continued to occur for the past four years.

Citizens of Alexandria should visit their neighborhood schools and see if students, teachers, and parents share the same educational vision as Alexandria's superintendent.

Ed Lewis