In defense of public schools To the Editor: I started reading with interest the Village News editorial about school vouchers. After making it all...

In defense of public schools

To the Editor:

I started reading with interest the Village News editorial about school vouchers. After making it all the way to the second paragraph, my interest quickly turned to disbelief. I’m not aware that you’ve actually visited many of the schools you grossly misrepresent, but the picture you paint through the statements you made do not represent the schools I see in your coverage area.
Village News: “Currently we know that schools in areas with families of lesser incomes have children with less opportunities and poor grades.”

I’ll start with a Title I school in my district to debunk your myth about poor grades. Last year, Matoaca Elementary School earned state recognition as a Title I Distinguished School. Three-year average pass rates on state-mandated tests ranged from 83-89 percent. That’s a B to B+ on our grading scale.

Venturing out of the Matoaca District, you’ll find other success stories. Bensley Elementary in the Bermuda District recently became one of six schools in Virginia to earn National Title I Distinguished School recognition for a second time. Bensley’s student pass rates last year ranged from 90-99 percent, all As and A-pluses, according to the grading scale.

Bensley is one of six National Title I Distinguished Schools in Chesterfield County; many of these schools are in the Bermuda, Dale, and Matoaca districts – the Village News’ coverage area.

Are there schools not performing as well? Of course. There will always be a top and bottom when you have more than one school. During the past year, the School Board has worked diligently to provide additional resources at schools not meeting standards.

Our schools are doing great things, making progress that might not otherwise be reflected by your reliance on a snapshot-in-time, state-mandated test. For example:

School A has a student who got 8 out of 10 questions correct on the beginning-of-year test. At the end of the year, the same student got 9 out of 10 correct on the same test. The student’s pass rate increased 10 percentage points.
School B has a student who got 2 out of 10 questions correct on the beginning-of-year test. At the end of the year, the same student got 7 out of 10 correct on the same test. The student’s pass rate increased 50 percentage points.

School A would be higher rated for the student’s pass rate. Yet many would argue that School B had the greater success. School B is a school that you disparage with your ill-informed comments.

My colleagues and I also have heard from teachers working at the schools in the Bermuda, Dale, and Matoaca district, who dispute your comment: “As you can imagine, those on this (southeastern side of the county) some families may not be able to send their child across the county to a better school where the good teachers have fled.”

“… [W]here the good teachers have fled” insinuates there are no good teachers left in schools in the southeastern part of our community. When I visit my 5 schools located in the southeastern part of our community, I don’t see schools where good teachers have deserted for more affluent areas. Instead, I see 20- and 30-year veterans and relative newcomers who have committed to serving at students previously identified as at-risk in terms of socio-economic status. All the “good” teachers have not fled.

Matoaca Elementary School teachers are topping state expectations by 11-17 percentage points.
Chesterfield Career and Technical Center @ Courthouse teachers continue to be nominated by parents and students for R.E.B. Award for

Teaching Excellence. Two won awards totaling nearly $21,000 in grant money this year.

Marguerite Christian Elementary teachers have helped increase the test scores you rely on by 20 percentage points in English and 15 percentage points in math over the last two years.

I could go on and on, but by now you probably realize the gross overgeneralization you have made. Each of our schools is succeeding in taking their students from one level to the next. We should celebrate their successes instead of attempting to pit one against the other. We have great teachers throughout the Chesterfield County school system. I do not appreciate ill-conceived, overgeneralized, and disparaging comments made to the teaching professionals in the Eastern portion of Chesterfield County.

Rob Thompson
Matoaca District School Board representative