So, which do you want first: the good news, or the really, really good news? Happily for Alexandria City Public Schools students, parents and educators — and for city taxpayers — results of the 2014-2015 Standards of Learning tests released Tuesday show a range of impressive gains over the past academic year.
Citywide, scores are up across the four core subject areas of English: Reading, Math, Science and History. The gains were seen in most individual schools, not just one or two strong schools pulling up the system as a whole. In both Reading and Math, 14 of 16 individual schools, a nifty 87.5 percent, showed improvement over last year.
And the news is even better at Jefferson-Houston School, where remarkable one-year performance leaps accompanied the school community’s first year in their state-of-the-art new building that opened last September.
Jefferson-Houston is in the midst of a process to regain accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education. While in actual terms the school’s pass rates are low at 58 percent for Math and 57 for Reading, the one-year improvements are astonishing — led by the pass rate in Science, which nearly doubled in one year to 60 percent. The turnaround is even more impressive given that just two years ago, Jefferson-Houston was almost taken over by the state because of persistent poor performance.
These strong results warrant much kudos. We congratulate Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley for setting the tone from the top in his first full year on the job in a permanent capacity. Crawley has emphasized greater academic rigor and better teaching methodologies. Congratulations are also due to Alexandria’s school board and chairwoman Karen Graf for working with Crawley, among other things, to successfully reconsolidate George Washington and Francis C. Hammond middle schools from five schools on two campuses back to two schools.
Jefferson-Houston principal Christopher Phillips has to be the school system’s “Rookie of the Year” for his school’s performance in his first year at the helm. The school even has an impressive YouTube video that was released in March: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxqWGWw7LFs.
Yes, we recognize that one year of SOL data — even strong across-the-board improvements — do not mean all is instantly well at ACPS. For one thing, SOL performance is just one measure of a school system’s success. Graduation and college acceptance rates, success at job attainment and other measures of well-being are also important. And in absolute terms, the school system’s pass rate of around 70 percent in most subjects is not optimal.
But there is no denying that these new scores reflect movement in the right direction. They are a validation of the changes being made by Crawley and his leadership team. We look for continued successes in the coming school year.