Helping Students Catch Up

“No Child Left Behind” is an ambitious project set up under the Bush administration to do exactly what its title implies. Despite that, some students in school systems continue to lag behind. Schools often have their own measures for helping those students. Now, Fairfax County Schools have a new one.

The Fairfax County school system says it can make progress with poorly performing black and Hispanic students, but it needs monetary support from the Fairfax Board of County Supervisors to make it happen.

The school system says it needs $1.3 million dollars to morph programs at some of its schools from something called the Excel program to a newly created “Priority Schools Initiative.” Excel has been in place in 20 Fairfax schools since 1998. It was supposed to help low-income elementary school students improve their grades. But school officials say that many aspects of Excel weren’t working. Rather, other efforts — such as needs-based staffing, which decreases student-teacher ratios at schools with a lot of low-income and beginning English-speaking students — were more effective in helping the schools that were part of the Excel program, school officials say.

So, Excel is basically out and the “Priority Schools Initiative” is in. Rather than focusing on low-income students alone as Excel did, the “Priority Schools Initiative” will look to help poorly performing students no matter how much money their families have. In particular, schools where Black and Hispanic students don’t do as well as their white and Asian peers will be targeted by the new program.

All together, 30 schools —some elementary, some middle — will be part of the “Priority Schools Initiative.” Some of these schools were formerly part of the Excel program, but not all. The plan is to give these 30 schools more resources for at least three years. The school system allocated the $1.3 million dollars so that it could use that cash to move schools previously using Excel to the “Priority Schools Initiative.” The county supervisors have set aside exactly that amount for the schools, assuming school officials are able to show that the money is really needed.

So far, not all the supervisors are convinced.

Read more about the situation at Fairfax Times.

It’s the constant battle of public schools to find a way to reach those students who can’t seem to keep up. Countless hours and dollars have been spent trying to achieve what all teachers’ desire: the effective teaching of every student. As some programs fail to accomplish that task, others must come up to replace them. The only thing that is clear is that doing nothing is not an option.

Towards that end, Fairfax County Schools are making a concerted effort to help students who are often forgotten. Parents and students in Fairfax County schools may have first-hand experience with this. Perhaps some of your children did well under Excel. Perhaps some of them will do better under the “Priority Schools Initiative.” Perhaps not.  Regardless, projects like these two will continue — in Fairfax and across the country — as long as there are students lagging.

Learn more about Fairfax’s new program. Whether you think it will help your child or it’s a waste of money, contact the Board of County Supervisors to let members know what you think about the possibility of them spending this $1.3 million. If you’re a part of the school system, don’t let this opportunity to be heard pass.

Go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/board/ to find more information on how to contact the supervisors.

Go to http://www.fcps.edu/schlbd/members.htm to find out how to contact your school board members. Ask them to tell you more about the “Priority Schools Initiative.”

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