Albemarle County Public Schools rank in the bottom 11% of all Virginia public school systems for black third grade math students, according to SOL results posted on the Virginia Department Of Education website.
The results are even more concerning for ACPS third graders who are classified as economically disadvantaged students. According to SOL scores, ACPS ranks 122 out 128 Virginia school districts for students who are economically disadvantaged, which is in the bottom 4% of all divisions within the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In totality, just 29% of black students and 31% of economically disadvantaged third grade math students across ACPS passed the math SOL in 2022. Economically disadvantaged students are classified by all races. These students qualify for free or reduced meals at school.
Personally, I find these statistics very concerning and demoralizing, especially since ACPS are in the top 10% of per pupil spending across the Commonwealth. The vast majority of ACPS leadership has been employed for more than a decade. Because of this tenure, leadership cannot pass the buck to a previous regime anymore; the results and responsibility absolutely fall on their shoulders.
So, what should we do about this? Well, here are my suggestions:
First, we should not blame the teachers for these results. They are overworked, underpaid, short staffed and being told to do more with less by ACPS leadership. This is an unsustainable model for teachers, students and parents, and a clear indication why so many teachers are quitting the Albemarle County Public School system.
Second, we should focus on paying ACPS teachers a much better wage. If we increase teacher pay, we will see more teachers enter the Albemarle County Public School system. With more teachers on the job due to increased pay, we will see smaller class sizes, better working conditions and improved SOL performances.
Third, we should immediately remedy the bus driver shortage crisis by increasing driver pay, which will certainly attract more drivers to ACPS. Every tax payer and parent within the Albemarle County Public School system should be enraged that our students are arriving hours late to school. Please let me put this into perspective: the Western Albemarle High School and Henley Middle School students who are riding Bus 179 each morning, are routinely arriving to school 1-2 hours late each day. If this tardiness continues, the students on this bus will miss +33% of the entire school year because of this transportation crisis.
Now, taxpayers and parents are certainly going to ask this question: How can we increase teacher and bus driver pay without raising our taxes, which are already high enough? That’s a fair question to ask.
Here is my answer to that question:
I’m proposing we take the significant amount of dollars being allocated to rebranding schools and reallocate these funds directly to increased pay for teachers and bus drivers (multiple administrators within ACPS have confirmed rebranding is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars).
Am I defending or supporting the actions of Paul H. Cale, Jack Jouett, Mortimer Sutherland and Meriwether Lewis? Absolutely not. Please do not let anyone in this community tell you otherwise. If you hear community members say otherwise, stop them immediately and respectfully correct them.
However, if we currently cannot get kids to school on time, if we currently cannot get kids home on time, and if we currently cannot optimize learning performance in an equitable setting, why should we be prioritizing taxpayer dollars for rebranding efforts instead of investing those dollars directly into our students’ education?
In conclusion, I would like taxpayers and parents to please remember and communicate these points to community members:
We currently cannot afford to pay teachers a living wage.
We currently cannot afford to pay bus drivers a living wage.
We currently cannot get kids to school on time.
We currently cannot get kids home on time.
However, Albemarle County Public Schools are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for school rebranding efforts.
Respectfully, I ask Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas and the Albemarle County School Board this question: “Are you in touch with today’s reality?”
Jerry Miller, CEO & Publisher
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