Our View – Fewer Children Left Behind


As candidates wrangle to reenergize the school board with a new face on the central office dais, the winner of Tuesdays election will come with the confidence that his or her school system is on the rise, at least according to certain standards.

Alexandria City Public Schools announced last week that, according to preliminary estimates, 10 of the citys 17 schools will make the federal governments grade this upcoming school year. Last year, just seven schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the feds gauge of success based on the Virginia Standards of Learning tests.

Cora Kelly, Maury and John Adams elementary schools will enjoy AYP status next year after missing the cut last year. However, William Ramsey (which made AYP last year) and all four secondary schools (Hammond, G.W., Minnie Howard and T.C. Williams) failed to make AYP, as did Mount Vernon and Patrick Henry elementary schools.  

The increase is certainly impressive, especially for Jefferson-Houston Elementary, which not only achieved AYP, but also earned full accreditation for the first time in four years.

Leading the charge alongside dedicated teachers, parents and community members, Principal Kimberly Graves has turned around what was once considered a wayward elementary school. The rallying efforts of concerned stakeholders are inspiring. Even School Board Chairwoman Yvonne Folkerts worked in the trenches tutoring a Jefferson-Houston student whom she later found out did wonderful on the SOLs.

One parent who plans to eventually send her child to Jefferson-Houston told The Times: It shows that the school can succeed with the right leadership, support from central office and community and a solid plan. My hope is that, in just a few years, we can stop focusing on SOLs and AYP as measures of success at Jefferson-Houston. Passing grades should just be an assumption, and excellence should be the focus.

As inspiring as the progress may be, it is not yet monumental. As part of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act that has become a fact of life, the AYP ratings measure success in the long term; standards increase each year. Jefferson-Houston will become a monument of academic improvement when it sustains its current success measured with or without AYP next year and beyond.

Until then, this is a giant first step.

Whether or not you subscribe to No Child Left Behinds tenets, there is no denying the communitys multi-pronged and proactive involvement in attaining this first goal in a series of many.

As readers swarm (we hope) the polls on August 12 to vote in a new school board member, keep in mind the calculated improvement that took place at Jefferson-Houston, especially in a year that will likely be defined by the school boards ability to plan strategically.

Who will best effect such exciting outcomes?