Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent Morton Sherman says he is working proactively to improve by aggressively instituting and refining its corrective action plan.
The school is in a “corrective action” this year because of its failure to meet certain benchmarks after two years of school improvement plans and five years of failing to meet certain federal standards.
“The school has immense potential and before we’re caught and labeled by the state or federal government—with Tina Radomsky leaving it gives us the opportunity to review what a corrective action plan might mean,” he said. Radomsky, the school's principal, . She’s the school’s third principal in six years.
At the end of this school year, if the school doesn’t meet its Adequate Yearly Progress designation, it must take on “alternative planning governance,” Sherman told Patch in an interview. “I don’t know if [MVCS] will get out of corrective action.”
School AYP results are expected to be released in June or July.
Sherman said changes at MVCS now could help the community have more control over the school in the future. He wants to avoid with MVCS what happened to when the federal government “came in and declared it a persistently lowest achieving school.” With that infamous title came heavy sanctions and the government helped structure T.C.’s improvement plan.
The government requirements for T.C. included external lead partners and it might mean something similar for MVCS, according to Sherman.
As part of T.C.’s improvement plan, two consultants were brought in rather than going through a company such as Pearson, a firm that provides educational assesment products and services. Sherman added that the role of a principal changes during this period. For example, an internal lead partner at T.C. takes charge of a lot of the business functions and community outreach so that the principal can focus more closely on academics.
For Mount Vernon, “a year of planning doesn’t make sense. We’ve had some good success, and I don’t want the school to slip further,” he said.
Sherman has as of July 1. Sherman would like Mark Eisenhour to serve as an assistant principal, splitting his time between MVCS and Jefferson Houston School.
“To do an outside search to have a principal come in July or August… This is not just an issue of opportunity but imperative of time,” he said.
Sherman said the new principal would have broad latitude to work with parents and the school community as to the direction of the school, adding that ACPS is not considering taking away the modified calendar and dual language tracks at the school.
Under existing law, the school is required to come up with an action plan. “What I’m trying to do is say, 'Let’s not wait. Let’s put some other systems in place,'” he said.
Meanwhile, Virginia has applied for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind law, which, if approved, means the state’s schools wouldn’t have to meet the currently required AYP benchmarks. Instead, schools would be measured by achievement and achievement variances between a school’s population. NCLB doesn’t look at variances, but at the overall performance of a school, Sherman explained.
That could pose a problem for MVCS if the waiver is accepted. The test scores of students identified as white “are some of the highest in the city,” said Sherman, but other ethnic groups at the school saw a much poorer performance. The disparity between populations likely could trigger another poor performance rating for the school.
For example, MVCS test data show that 98.6 percent of white students are proficient in mathematics and 97 percent in English, but only 70 percent of black students showed proficiency in math and 72 percent in English. Just over 66 percent of Hispanic students showed proficiency in math and 59 percent in English. Only 30 percent of the special needs students passed their Standards of Learning tests.
“I don’t want to lose additional time at Mount Vernon. Had we waited until the end of April or beginning of May to decide on a new principal, we would have lost planning time,” said Sherman. “This timeline gives tremendous respect to the needs of the children. The school is one of the lowest achieving, and it’s imperative that we move this school ahead.”