Plan unveiled to fix a fractured T.C.


If T.C. Williams High School is going to jettison its label as one of Virginias persistently lowest-achieving schools, it will lean heavily on its teachers and a revamped support structure to provide a more personalized education, according to the reform plan presented to the School Board last Thursday.

The transformation plan presented by Superintendent Morton Sherman last week was a direct response to state-level demands for improvement at Alexandrias only public high school. Adhering to the state requirements could net T.C. up to $2 million a year for the next three years to fund the changes.

Until now, only one cross-section of the T.C. population its white students has performed at or above the Virginia average on the states Standards of Learning exams, Sherman said.

Since acquiring the undesirable label, based on habitual underperformance on standardized testing in English and math relative to similarly situated Virginia schools, in early March, the T.C. community has done its share of grieving about the implications.

Dozens of meetings between students, faculty, Alexandria City Public Schools leaders and community stakeholders influenced the improvement effort. Suzanne Maxey, hired last month to be T.C.s next principal, will begin to lead the transformation work in the hallways when she takes over this summer.

Weve approached this as a team, Sherman said. Its not Shermans Manifesto by any stretch of the imagination.

The process will also extend to middle school students in grades six through eight a point not required by the state.

The two pillars of the proposal include the establishment of an Individualized Achievement Plan in both math and English for all students and the introduction of Professional Learning Plans for school staff.

School counselors will monitor each students IAP, a collaborative effort of individual students, parents, teachers, social workers and other stakeholders. Increasingly, the personal education plans deal with social, emotional and behavioral issues, in addition to their education.

Math scores at middle schools improved last year under the regulations of the No Child Left Behind legislation after the implementation of IAPs for hundreds of students.

The transformation model includes five additional counselors at T.C. and one more in each middle school to lessen the case load to about 180 students per counselor. The new positions were included in the final draft of the ACPS budget adopted last month.

Other support systems outlined in the plan include writing and math centers, expanded prospects for online learning, alternative education options and efforts to increase student participation in extracurricular activities.

It is our teachers who make us great or break us, Sherman said. While ideas for new programs could be thrown out ad infinitum, all of those things dont make a difference without great teachers, he said.

School leaders have high hopes that the transformations influence will last for years.

These recommendations will profoundly impact the lives of thousands of children for many years to come, Sherman said. If they dont, it means the plan didnt work.
The School Board will vote at its regular meeting tonight on a resolution to support the transformation plan.