Great Expectations for ACPS

Alexandria parents have been complaining for years that the current course work is not stimulating, that there are too many worksheets and children are not being asked to think.

And the reason is simple.

For years now, ACPS has relied on the Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs) as its baseline, as well as textbook curricula, such as Everyday Math. And the reality is that parents were right; ACPS should not be using one standard or one curriculum. We should not use one curriculum to match many student needs, we should instead be using many different curricula to match many different students.

Why? Because all students come to the table with different talents, needs and learning styles and we as policy makers and advocates need to be doing a better job of meeting those learners’ needs.

ACPS is responding by writing a new, more flexible set of standards and curricula, one that will challenge all students to learn and to achieve.

This became abundantly clear at a Maury Elementary School PTA meeting last month where, after her presentation,  parents asked the math coach, “Why should our children be ‘Algebra ready’ by eighth grade?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know, that’s what they tell us.”

That is not a reason. This is never a reason. The reason we want students to be “algebra ready” is that we want to establish high expectations and high standards, not just for our high income learners or TAG identified, but for all our students.

We as a community and as a school system need to have “great expectations” for our students and expect high standards.  Because this is how we stimulate learning, creativity and critical thinking in our students. Is this important? You bet it is.

In Erika Miller’s presentation last week at Agenda Alexandria, this Stanford educated, T.C Williams graduate, and now executive at the nationally famous, Education Trust said:

“What schools do matters! But, rather than organizing our educational system to narrow gaps, we organize it to exacerbate them. How? By giving students who arrive with less, less in school, too. We don’t have the same expectations of them,” she said.

She went on to detail some aspects of high performing  schools, which included faith in the students’ ability to do well regardless of background, socioeconomic status or race.

Quoting others in the field:  People have to understand that these students can be just as successful as anyone else. It begins with the belief system,”  said Richard Esparza, former principal, Granger High School (WA)

Rob Krupicka, Alexandria City Councilman, advocates for the investment in early childhood education says, “when children are born, no matter what their background, they have equal capacities.  Differences start being apparent very early though as young children’s minds grow in response to the world around them.  This is one reason why early learning programs like home visiting and pre-K are so important to a child’s success in school.”

And so as ACPS develops its own curriculum, and develops high standards for each and every student, I say, “Bravo!”   Let’s move forward.

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