Our View: Good news from Alexandria schools

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Jefferson-Houston's campus (File Photo)
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There are three encouraging reports about Alexandria schools in this and last weeks’ Times, two involving Alexandria City Public Schools and one from Blessed Sacrament School.

First, ACPS received good marks from the state in its accreditation process, as 14 of 16 schools in the city received full, accreditation from the State Board of Education for the 2018-19 school year.

The best news of all is that Jefferson-Houston School, which had been denied accreditation for six years running, was accredited with conditions. While Jefferson-Houston still has significant work ahead to get to where everyone wants the school to be academically, receiving accreditation with conditions is still an enormous achievement.

Two other ACPS schools that had been partially accredited last year, William Ramsay and Francis C. Hammond, received full accreditation this year.

Excitement over these results must be somewhat tempered, however, because the results were boosted by the state’s change in its approach to assessments, and this transition year benefitted ACPS.

The accreditation process is moving from one solely based on Standards of Learning results to one that is more comprehensive and uses SOLs as a component but not as the entirety of assessing performance. During this transition year, districts were assessed using both methods and were allowed to use the best results.

For instance, four ACPS schools that were fully accredited last year, and are again fully accredited under the old system, would have been accredited with conditions under the new system: Douglas MacArthur, Matthew Maury, Mount Vernon and George Washington. This means without improvement in the areas flagged by the new system, ACPS is likely to have more schools in the not fully accredited category next year.

Still, we celebrate the progress, particularly for Jefferson-Houston.

The second piece of news regarding ACPS that we consider overall good news is the approach being taken by new T.C. Williams High School athletic director James L. Parker toward new coaches. In this week’s Times front page story about coaching turnover on the T.C. Williams boys’ basketball team, “On the rebound,” Parker describes his philosophy of bringing in high-profile coaches to Alexandria’s only high school.

While the recent coaching switch in the near term does continue a several-year trend of turmoil at the helm of T.C. boys’ basketball, in the longer run it’s a great shift in philosophy.

Parker is right that hiring coaches with broader experience, a wider range of contacts and more renown in their respective areas is going to help T.C.’s student-athletes going forward. The hiring of former D.C. star Darryl Prue, who played professionally overseas, to coach the T.C. boys and former WNBA player Lisa Willis to coach the T.C. girls, are exciting first steps in this new direction.

Finally, this week, Alexandria’s Blessed Sacrament School, affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, was one of just eight schools in Virginia and 49 nationwide to receive the 2018 National Blue Ribbon School Award. It was the only school in the Diocese to receive this designation.

Blue Ribbon schools are selected by the U.S. Department of Education for academic achievement. This is the second time in 10 years that Blessed Sacrament has been named a Blue Ribbon School.

Well done to ACPS and to Blessed Sacrament. Your achievements are encouraging and affirming.

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