When we think of the things that have the biggest impact on the success of a child, we think about the teacher. It’s generally the first thought that pops into our heads.
So, in a week when the School Board approved the Superintendent’s proposed budget, we are asking: does money really make a difference?
Funding helps equip our teachers with the tools to help them teach. This is particularly important for new teachers. These tools help teachers more effectively differentiate their instruction so that Ani and Amy both get the instruction they each need. They also help a teacher align the instruction with the Standards of Learning so that all teachers are teaching to content the state expects and meeting the standards on which our schools are assessed. You would not expect a plumber to show up without a tool kit, right?
- This year, ACPS will be upgrading its secondary math materials, aligned with Virginia Standards of Learning.
- Last year, students in kindergarten through grade five received updated textbooks and materials aligned with the current Virginia Department of Education adoptions.
- Over the next few years, ACPS plans to reintroduce a regular textbook adoption cycle so that all learning materials stay up to date.
So why not just have textbooks available online? Surely that is cheaper? No, actually not. Textbook publishers offer packages made up of both print and electronic materials so there is no cost saving in going exclusively online. Besides, all children learn differently. Some children need to have a physical book in their hand to learn, others don’t have internet access at home. Going exclusively online would be like saying we accept one size fits all. It doesn’t. So in the same way that our reading materials reflect the diversity of our students, so does the way we deliver our educational services.
In an age where violent electronic games as well as real-life violence can both play out at school, funding also helps us provide the counseling and support services that children need so that they are ready to learn. Have you ever tried to talk to a child who is watching TV? They simply ignore you until you turn it off. Now insert real-life drama and you see why funding student supports can make a difference in a child’s life. We need every student to be ready to learn, no matter what they have experienced elsewhere.
- Student Services will see a new substance abuse counselor this school year
- The Restorative Practices coordinator position has been extended to 12 months to allow for summer preparation and training
- Two new positions at the high school level will support students with disabilities in preparing for life after high school
But not all children are the same. Some arrive in kindergarten grade levels ahead. Some are gifted but have never held a book before. Some have special education needs that require a full-time paraprofessional assigned to them. Some children have never heard English spoken before. Some schools have more students in the first and third groups and some have more in the second and fourth. It’s our job to make sure we are equitably balancing our resources so that each school, as well as each student, gets what they need. Funding the right number of qualified staff to meet the needs of the students at that school is one way we can do this.
- This school year, students with disabilities will see eight new full-time and one part-time specialized instructional teachers and support personnel, some of which were recommended in the recent evaluation
- The budget also includes a full-time parent liaison to help build strong connections between families and their school
- A technology integration specialist will ensure students and teachers have access to technology and know how to use it in daily instruction
- The budget also includes a Title I Student Improvement Coordinator to support schools with higher rates of students eligible for free and reduced price meals
- A communication position will support ADA compliance
Finally, funding makes a difference in the quality of the teacher: the aspect of a child’s education we consider having the biggest impact. Less funding means a school division may focus on recruiting novice teachers. While novice teachers often have great talent, they are not experienced in the classroom and still need to hone their skills and every novice teacher needs guidance from their more experienced peers. Many novice teachers hone their skills in one division then hop to another that pays more once they have a few years of experience. Competitive salaries help ACPS attract more experienced teachers who have higher level degrees, are able to coach other younger teachers and who stay for many years. A sign of a healthy school division is the ability to grow our own administrators who become principals of our schools. Good staff make a successful school division. Eighty-eight percent of our budget is spent on staff.
- ACPS is currently recruiting for next school year. If you can recommend a good teacher who would be a fit for ACPS, please send them our way.
So this is where we thank you, the taxpayer, for supporting the next generation. Yes, funding makes a difference.