Letter to the Editor: ACPS can do better for our students

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John E. Lennon (Courtesy photo)
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To the editor:

This is in response to a Sept. 6 letter in the Alexandria Times from Thomas W. Spoehr, “Elected officials should focus on poor ACPS results.”

I agree with Mr. Spoehr’s premise that attention must be paid to Alexandria City Public Schools by the city’s elected leadership – a continuing requirement, to be sure, but one that’s especially important in light of standardized test scores for the past school year. Those scores are available to the public on the website of the Virginia Department of Education, www.schoolquality.virginia.gov/virginia-schools.

Compiled test scores show a lack of consistent improvement citywide over a period of three school years in almost every category, with occasional bright spots including higher scores in science and reading in a number of schools.

I also agree with the premise that elected leadership must break this pattern and work for full accreditation by all schools in the city, but also for success in every classroom in achieving the system-wide goal that every student succeeds.

Ways must be found to meet the educational needs of students throughout Alexandria, and to improve the performance of all ACPS students – from those with the greatest needs to those with the greatest potential. Demographic and ethnic categories requiring special attention include Hispanic, students with disabilities and English learning students – as well as those in any category weighed down by the burdens of poverty.

As a District C candidate for school board, I am among those willing to be held accountable for the performance of Alexandria’s public school students in the future. If elected, I am committed to working with other members of the school board, city council and mayor – and, in particular, the outstanding new Superintendent of ACPS, Dr. Gregory Hutchings, to find solutions.

I am also committed to maintaining local school board control over the city’s school system, in accordance with Virginia’s State Constitution. It is in this area that I respectfully disagree with Spoehr’s suggestion that Washington D.C.’s charter schools provide a good example for Alexandria. Nationally, absent an infusion of funds, charter schools provide an uneven model of success – and while, as a graduate of D.C. Public Schools a couple of generations ago, I am glad for their apparent success, other recent developments in that system make me hesitant to embrace their example.

Spoehr is correct in saying that ACPS students will pay the long-term price for poor performance. As parents and committed citizens we need to meet that challenge, and provide opportunities for our children to do better as students – so that they can do better later as adults.

-John E. Lennon, Alexandria

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