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Park View High School in Sterling is ranked below 95 percent of all secondary schools in the commonwealth, yet LCPS pays teachers more to work at Loudoun Valley and Woodgrove high schools in Purcellville than it does to its Sterling teachers. Bear in mind that both Purcellville schools perform in the top quartile of all Virginia high schools.

Two weeks ago, the school board approved applying for Title I funding to help struggling Park View. Title I is intended to provide assistance to “schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards;” Park View certainly meets the criteria for help, with 63 percent of its students in the Free or Reduced-Price Lunch program (FRPL) and more than 60% of them at-risk minority students — and it’s clearly not meeting state standards.

Yet LCPS pays teachers on average almost $9,000 more each year to work at schools that barely crack the 10 percent marks for either FRPL and at-risk students. While it’s unsurprising that Park View students are behind such a comparatively large eight ball, since the average annual family median income in Purcellville is more than $140,000— at least twice that of the Park View families — it’s hard to understand why there’s such a counter-intuitive disparity in teacher pay.

Since LCPS wants the funds to “be used to benefit the school as a whole rather than only a few students,” wouldn’t a great place to start be to attract our county’s more experienced staff to Sterling rather than to Purcellville? Perhaps LCPS can find a way to use the Title I funds to offer bonuses to teachers choosing to work at Park View to bring them in line with Woodgrove’s and Valley’s pay — and perhaps even reduce the turnover rate at Park View.

The good news is that LCPS’s proactive Title I move provides greater than usual flexibility in how to use those federal funds. What if we leverage that discretion to raise the salaries of Park View’s teachers to match those at the high schools in Purcellville? Park View’s staff turnover rate is very high, and it has three times as many first and second year teachers than either Woodgrove or Valley at any given time. Consider that Woodgrove, when it opened just a few years back, had only a couple teachers new to the profession, while Park View students are challenged with a revolving door of staff every year.

This in no way disparages the quality of the current teachers at Park View, but why not take this opportunity to enhance it? Studies show that outside of socioeconomic factors, the quality of the teacher has the greatest impact on a student’s learning achievement. Obviously our school system has limited direct influence on the socioeconomic factors, so spending the funds to attract and retain more strong and experienced teachers to Sterling would go a long way “to benefit the school as a whole rather than only a few students.”

Jim Dunning

Ashburn

Comments


Another set of data points we should consider is the distribution of grades at these schools. A report on grade inflation in our high schools was released this week showing that pretty much half of high school kids have A averages. Students at Valley, Woodgrove, Stone Bridge, and Broad Run should be concerned because “Such grade inflation blurs the signal of high grades on a transcript, meaning that the students whose performance truly justifies A grades are not easily discernible from students with more modest classroom performance.”

But another finding of the study bears on the disparity of resource allocation to Park View students: the gains in grades were unequal among high schools — the differences appear to favor students from “wealthier, white high schools,” with students from high minority schools not enjoying the benefits of the grade inflation.
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Excellent letter and spot on. The dirty little secret, of course, is our school board is more interested in satisfying the wants of their spouses (LCPS teachers) than providing equitable learning environments for students. Teachers want to be paid more AND work in less challenging (e.g. highly affluent) environments. Thus, we allow teachers to dictate where they work rather than placing “master teachers” in these high-FRL schools.

To make matters worse, when great results do occur in these disadvantaged schools (see Rolling Ridge ES), our school board ignores their achievement and focuses on schools with high scores due to the affluence of their student population.

The school board is simply unable to effectively manage this system. Most have no idea what’s going on from transportation deficiencies to unequal distribution of teachers. 2019 can’t get here fast enough.

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