To the editor:
Thank you to Mark Eaton for his keen insights on the need for a quality alternative education program in Alexandria’s schools. As he points out, this has long been an issue within ACPS, especially at the high school level.
There is another side of this issue that is not usually spoken about: The impact of disruptive students on their classmates’ opportunity for a quality education. For at least the past 15 years, the conversations about an alternative program have focussed on who would be moved to the alternative program and the impact on their educational opportunities.
The discussions largely ignore the significant number of students – many of whom are students of color and recent immigrants – who are working hard for a quality high school experience only to have their learning disrupted.
Years ago, when I was the high school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association president, I attended a meeting during which teachers lamented the challenges of dealing with disruptive students, most of whom were in the general education classes. They were truly pained about the impact of the disruptors on the students eager to learn but who were not yet able to keep up in more advanced classes. Teachers reported the eager-learners were often the casualty of one or two students who regularly disrupted their classes.
I understand there are many reasons students act out in school, including that some disrupt to hide that their reading or other skills are not up to grade level. I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment that ACPS needs to develop a quality alternative education program focusing on the needs of the disruptive students, but that will take time.
In the meantime, ACPS must immediately take action to protect the educational opportunities of the current cohort of students who come to school to learn. They deserve that attention just as much as the students causing problems.
-Maggie Fitzsimmons, Alexandria