YOUR VIEWS | Getting Down to Business at ACPS


To the editor:

I read with concern your headline article in the April 9-15 edition, No Easy Fix for Citys Dropout Figures. Our dropout epidemic will continue with horrific societal impacts and costs unless we create an integrated strategy that rallies resources and energies from all corners of our city. We must be innovative to make an impact, and, if I am elected to the school board from District A, I will advocate for a plan that includes:

Raising expectations. I firmly believe that each child has unique gifts and enormous potential. We need everyone in the school system to believe that, too. Children take their cues from adults. If adults expect them to fail, they will likely fail. If adults expect them to succeed, they will succeed. Our expectations of children often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Numerous studies have appeared in psychology and education policy journals that describe this phenomenon, known as the Pygmalion effect. To make this belief in high expectations actionable, every child must have a map to success a plan that teachers, principals, parents and students themselves develop and follow.

Expanding Pre-K. If we want our children to succeed in the upper grades, we need to prepare them for success when they are little. Even with a tight budget, expanding pre-K is good policy and good economic sense. Numerous studies have documented how spending on pre-K programs repays itself many times over (by 20 times, according to one study by the Rand Corporation) by reducing the various costs associated with having uneducated children exit the school system.

Increasing community involvement. I have spoken to many people around the city who want to get involved with our schools but dont know how. As a school board member, I would find ways to bring these people into our schools, as well as to bring our children out of the schools to meet our business people and community members. It does take a village, and Alexandria is a fantastic village. I want our children to meet the people who live and work in the community around them. I want them to have a greater understanding of what their futures could be like, to push the boundaries of what they think they can do. The spark that inspires a child to work harder in school could come from anywhere so I want to expose them to as many sparks as possible.

Supporting exemplary programs. As part of a parents and citizens group in the Jefferson-Houston community, I have advocated for introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) primary years program (PYP) at JH. PYP is a dynamic and challenging approach to learning that meets children where they are academically and developmentally, delivers high-level academic content, and nurtures their intellectual and character development. Our newly adopted strategic plan supports exemplary programs as part of our goal to provide a rigorous, relevant and internationally benchmarked education to enable all students to succeed as citizens in the global community. I fully support this goal and believe exemplary programs are part of the innovation we need to close the achievement gap and promote excellence for every child.

Turning the page. We have a new superintendent, Dr. Mortan Sherman, who deserves our support. He brings vision and experience to the problems faced by ACPS. He advocates for innovation in solving our achievement gap issues. He leads and he listens, and the outgoing school board did well to hire this man. Some people in the city, however, are still reliving the battles fought under the previous superintendent. I see the bitterness caused by pitting certain schools against others. I see the anguish of parents of children with special needs whom the previous administration failed. It is time to move past that. A vote for Helen Morris is a vote to move forward, a vote for someone who brings impartiality and expertise to the business of overseeing our school division.

Helen Morris
District A School Board Candidate