To the editor:
Much has been said about the need to improve the teaching skills of Alexandria City Public Schools staff, improve the curriculum, hire the best pricey consultants, build expensive schools full of the newest equipment, etc. The discussion, however, seems to omit the most necessary emphasis of all: the need for students to improve their motivation and self-discipline so they can develop the skills and knowledge necessary for their current and future success.
To encourage such, adults need to provide students regular and consistent rewards. Based on experience, we realize that there must be a difference in the ways we recognize and reward effort and achievement. Rewarding effort alone has led to students developing high self-esteem but lacking the necessary level of achievement.
Students need support and recognition for their success frequently. This must come from the classroom teacher (who may be the only consistent and reliable source). As an Alexandria classroom teacher when the principal opposed having a school honor roll, which he deemed elitist, I instituted a class honor roll, asked the director of guidance and principal to sign it, sent copies home to parents, and posted copies for each class on my bulletin board. My indifferent students turned interested when I returned papers that included extra credit points and higher quiz scores. Those extra credit points were always based on something I had said in class that was not in our text but nonetheless important. This strategy encouraged note taking, review for the pop quizzes and critical thinking.
We in the community also need to do our part to encourage academic achievement. I’ve regularly asked the schools (for the last couple of years) and newspapers to print honor rolls, but sadly, they do not appear. The papers say they do not get that information from the schools, and the schools declare the papers don’t ask for it! Surely, with all the folks in the Superintendent’s office, someone could get that information to the newspapers.
Our newspapers provide regular and extensive coverage of school sports, but not other areas of student achievement. Because we taxpaying citizens want first and foremost for our students to succeed in their academic areas, I hope we will read more good news about those endeavors. I have no idea who our academic stars are, nor anything about them. How about a featured student(s) of the week? I’d like to see a picture too. I’d like to read about all levels, not just T.C. Williams students.
I hope the community will find other ways to reward academic excellence, such as discounts off merchandise in Alexandria stores, invitations to meetings of local organizations honoring their contributions as worthy scholars and good citizens in their school communities, etc.
Our students will profit from exposure to the men and women who are using their time to build our community, and we hope the students will want to join them again later.