To the editor:
As the aunt of a teacher who has dedicated her career to teaching in the most difficult schools, I am grateful for the many educators who give their life’s call to the profession and face complex challenges in today’s culture.
For that and other reasons, I read with interest – several times – the “About Alexandria” column by Mark Eaton titled “Using a sledgehammer to swat a fly” in the March 2 Alexandria Times. Given his service to Alexandria City Public Schools, his perspective deserves due consideration.
The column is about House Bill 2426 in the Virginia General Assembly, which is advocated by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and many parents.
It was curious to me that Eaton’s column would assert so strongly that “Serious high school teachers and administrators spend nearly every waking moment trying to help individual students maximize their abilities.” If that’s the case, then the grade on the performance of multiple Northern Virginia public school systems relative to education outcomes is disappointing.
Focusing our lens closer to home, the School Quality Profiles published by the Virginia Department of Education show ACPS, despite healthy budgets, lagging in nearly every category – reading, writing, math and science. Importantly, the profiles account for or remove newly immigrated students with minimal English skills, for which Alexandria public schools have higher percentages across their student bodies. [https://schoolquality.virginia.gov/divisions/alexandria-city-public-schools#desktopTabs-2]
To the matter of the Fairfax County High Schools failing to notify “commended” students of their results on the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Exam, Eaton asserts this was a communication issue and not an action driven by a coordinated “woke conspiracy.”
As of Jan. 18, 2023, the Fairfax Times reported that 17 area schools admitted to withholding the National Merit award information. Was this a mind-bending coincidence or a coordinated effort?
How did something so significant toward helping “individual students maximize their abilities” elude hundreds of teachers and administrators?
How is it that hundreds of teachers and administrators missed that these “communications errors” involved a disproportionate number of Asians, who are a minority?
Had this been one isolated incident of curiosity or had it not discriminated against Asian students so disproportionately, perhaps the tax-paying citizens who fund public education would be more understanding. Unfortunately, it is sadly not isolated when it comes to public education in Northern Virginia.
Time and time again, actions by ACPS and Fairfax County Public Schools have eroded trust in those institutions for parents who send their children to those schools for education and for businesses that rely upon public schools to prepare students for careers and college. Examples include the stated policy to not inform parents of students’ intent to change their gender and the failure to disclose the extent of safety risks in their school systems to parents and students.
What strains credulity is Eaton’s call for parents, businesses and taxpayers to overlook the reality of public school systems that are underperforming on their sole purpose while they simultaneously overreach their boundaries. Many people are grateful that Youngkin and others are advocating for legislative responses to educational discrimination, especially against Asian students, and to failing grades for public education.
-Lindsay Hutter, Alexandria