Letter to the Editor: Correcting the record on Jefferson-Houston performance

Letter to the Editor: Correcting the record on Jefferson-Houston performance
After receiving an accredited with conditions status for the 2018- 2019 school year, T.C. Williams High School and Jefferson-Houston were both fully accredited for the 2019-2020 school year. (File Photo)

To the Editors,

I’m writing to unpack a statement in a letter to the Alexandria Times editors titled “City should spend less money on education.” Here’s what was published on March 23: “Government regulators would never tolerate in a private school the kind of poor performance that public schools, such as Jefferson-Houston School, are indulged year after year.” Although the letter had many such statements, space is limited, so I picked this one.

Taking it in sections, we start with “Government regulators would never tolerate [poor performance in schools like Jefferson-Houston].” The statement is false. Government regulators had little tolerance for poor performance at Jefferson-Houston. The school is on an improvement plan. That plan is publicly available. Below, I show how Jefferson-Houston has risen to the plan.

Because regulators have not tolerated poor performance, the next section is moot: “[Government regulators would not tolerate performance] in a private school the kind of poor performance [seen in Alexandria public schools].” Although the statement is moot, it’s still worth examining because its logic is misleading. It draws an academic equivalency between public and private school but is silent on funding.

The silence is telling. It covers a massive hole in the anti-funding argument put forth in the letter. Either we draw academic equivalency between the two types of schools and provide the funds to place all students on the same starting line or we defund public schools and have those students start behind the self-selecting public school students. A clean line of logic wants equality in both measure and funds.

The final segment of the statement: “[Public schools like Jefferson-Houston are indulged in poor performance] year after year.” The statement is false. Jefferson-Houston has posted blistering year-over-year gains in Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores over the last three years. Three years ago, 40 percent of Jefferson-Houston students were passing Math SOLs. Last year it was 69 percent. Three years ago, 51 percent were passing history SOLs. Last year it was 63 percent. Science went from 36 percent passing to 59 percent passing. English went from 47 percent to 62 percent. The students, staff and teachers at Jefferson-Houston have done an amazing job. They ran up the points on the scoreboard. I’m excited for the future.

Daniel Mehaffey,

Alexandria, Virginia