Your View: Cora Kelly turmoil raises host of questions about state policy

Your View: Cora Kelly turmoil raises host of questions about state policy

By Robert P. Lord, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
The coverage of the removal of principal Brandon Davis at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology (“Seazante Williams Oliver named interim principal at Cora Kelly School,” October 6) got my attention.

The removal was prompt- ed by the principal’s action allowing parents of poorly performing students to have their children opt out of state Standards of Learning tests. Absent the opt out, the test scores of these children would adversely affect the test scores of the school, impacting the school’s accreditation.

Initially, I supported the action to remove the principal. However, it appears that Davis may not be entirely at fault, since Virginia lawmakers recently passed a law allowing parents to opt out of the tests without hurting the school’s overall benchmarks.

The law and the opt-out provision, in my opinion, brings into question the validity of those glowing reports authored by Virginia school system administrators on the high quality of education in the commonwealth. How can this be so when state exam results do not accurately reflect the performance of the entire student population?

If the opt-out from state exams continues to be implemented in Virginia, then the performance of students and the granting of school accreditation should be subject to full disclosure, giving the scope of opt-out decisions, including: the number of students opting out; the number of state exams opted out of by those students; the subject matter of each foregone exam; the demographic background of said students; whether any students in question are repeating a grade or being held back; whether such students are required to and are participating in remedial course work, and the percentage of these students as they relate to a grade, the school as a whole and the entire school district.

Full transparency also would dictate that Virginia school performance reports include a meaningful break- down of the allocation and actual spending of public school budgets on administration, classroom teaching, remedial assistance, other assistance to students for whom English is a second language, the turnover rate of new and experienced teachers and incentives to retain a qualified teacher population.

The taxpayers of Virginia have a right to all of these dis- closures. I also would hope that state legislators would seek such information in order to make educated deci- sions on public education spending programs.