What is one decision made by the Alexandria School Board during the past six years that you disagreed with, and how would you have voted differently?
Last February, the board eliminated two weeks of intersession at Samuel Tucker and Mount Vernon Community School without data, community input, or programming alternatives. When I asked Dr. Sherman what data supports this change as being the best for students, he said that there wasn’t data.
For many years, intersession has been a part of ACPS and we could have tracked its progress, but didn’t. That is shameful and a poor model for supporting new programs. After some community pushback, they voted to allow one week more of intersession if the community pays for it. So now we are collecting money from only the families that are not on free and reduced lunch for a program that we aren’t sure works. To pay for the extra week we have to collect $40,000 a session.
Also, the district had been reducing budget and increasing teacher requirements over the past years for intersession, and wasn’t tracking that impact. I am not committed exclusively to the idea of preserving modified calendar, but I am committed to the idea that we let the community decide how they spend the budget to target the needs of the students. The communities at the two schools did not have the opportunity to develop new ideas, and I fear we will be in the same position this February.
And, if I may mention another …
I am disappointed in the choice to approve changes in literacy without looking at how much it costs, the impact on the teachers, and whether it targets the interventions needed. Products, like Success for All (SFA), are not targeted intervention models that we could be using to move student literacy in a positive a sustainable direction. This product mortgages other subject areas, does not target ELL students, violates special education inclusion, eliminates free play time in Kindergarten, undermines TAG programs, and uses a progress measurement system that isn’t compatible with common measurements in literacy.
Over the past few years, ACPS developed the new curriculum and a balanced guide reading literacy manual. I would like to support the work that was done on this project because it raised the standards, had teacher input, and actively solicited feedback. However, last summer, when it was rolled out to the schools, it was not fully supported. The curriculum did not include the balanced guide reading piece, which was the hallmark of the curriculum and a trend in modern education. Instead, new guidelines were developed and rolled out this September year tightly modeled after SFA. One part of the guidelines requires teachers to produce more than 5 hours of reading curriculum per week, without coaching or additional resources. Having teachers do this across grades and at the different schools in the district feels largely experimental given that we are trying to support our teachers to be successful in reducing the achievement gap. I want to add back balanced guide reading to every subject, including the encores.