(Guest post by a Loudoun Inspire volunteer.)
Lately the Loudoun County Public Schools system has come under public scrutiny and criticism for how it handles students in Special Education and English Language Learners departments. There is a Change.Org petition, with about 500 of 1,000 desired signatures, to petition the School Board to reconsider a policy that limits the number of courses ELL students can have remaining before being “aged out” of their local high school. Students were notified at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year of the change to their status and the petition was apparently brought by concerned citizens, a teacher, and some of the students directly affected. An article published by Loudoun Now, dated April 10, 2018, provides a glimpse into the debate at a School Board Committee meeting between Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Joy Maloney (Broad Run, and Chair of the Committee) who seem to represent both sides of the issue.
While policies and individual practices may leave room for debate, or correction, as a substitute teacher in the county for more than 5 years, my concern that the unintended consequences of all the negative press is to demoralize an already tender-hearted and overworked population: caring Teachers and Teaching Assistants.
There are finite limits to any school system. Loudoun has experienced exponential growth and development of schools even in the brief seven years that my family has lived here. According to the LCPS web site the population of ELL students is still relatively small by percentage. It is disappointing that more Teachers and Teaching Assistants who are on the front lines of these discussions seem to be the last to be asked to contribute their valuable expertise while politicians and even the citizens who have brought the petition and issue to the forefront come up with criticism that directly impact their classrooms and workloads.
It would be great to see more volunteers in every classroom, especially those with “at risk” populations. That would certainly aid in creating a more meaningful conversation and practical solutions involving all parties. As usual, though, that requires a level of civic involvement that is lacking these days. Wouldn’t it be inspiring if it were revived? But, even if you don’t yet have time to attend a school activity, you can take some Box Tops to your local school and be sure to thank a Teacher!