For Better Test Results,
Try a Better Curriculum
In an Aug. 12 editorial "Needs Improvement," The Post cited performance-linked teacher pay as a way to improve schools. Let's look at the facts.
An Aug. 12 Metro article, "Union Poll Pans Chief of Schools in Arundel," noted that Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Eric J. Smith "has built much of his reputation on improving test scores . . . Even among his detractors, few dispute those gains."
Fairfax County school leaders have refused to adopt the curriculum reforms that Smith has credited and championed. As a result, though Fairfax wealth and parent education rank among the highest in the nation, 2004 scores for all Fairfax students on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests ranked 57th out of 130 Virginia school districts in Algebra II -- about average for Virginia. In chemistry, Fairfax ranked 85th out of 130 -- in the bottom 40 percent of the state. Good luck to Fairfax children in a technical world economy.
Other districts in Virginia that have reformed their curriculums have also seen dramatic gains, especially in minority achievement. As a result, Fairfax's 2004 SOL scores for black students are the lowest in the state among major suburban districts, and lower than scores for blacks in Richmond, Hampton and Norfolk, on every one of the SOL tests given in the elementary grades. Unbelievable for Fairfax -- but true. (See www.gradesup.net/FairfaxSOL.pdf, which is based on figures from the Virginia Department of Education compiled by Fairfax parent Maria Casby Allen.) For years, Fairfax teachers have publicly documented that the unstructured reading and math programs chosen by our leaders are not working, but no one listened. We must teach programs we are told to teach, whether they work or not. Teachers do not run schools.
The Post would punish teachers for the performance of curriculum officials we do not choose, while the Fairfax School Board chose to give extra pay-scale increases to their leadership team.
High stakes for teachers and students punish the victims of failure. Conspicuously missing in the education debate? Accountability for those who have authority and responsibility in schools.
[Nelson is a former president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.]
Twice the Density,
With None of the Notice
We completely understand the frustration experienced by Gil Conrad as he deals with Fairfax County government not enforcing R-1 (residential, single-family) zoning regulations ["County Balks at Enforcing Rules of R-1 Zoning," Voices of Fairfax, Aug. 11].
We are in a similar predicament living in an area of Fairfax County that is zoned R-3 (residential, three houses an acre). Recently, a developer has begun buying homes in our area with plans to demolish them and replace them with two homes on less than the required minimum R-3 lot size (10,500 square feet), effectively making our neighborhood R-6 (residential, six houses an acre) without any public notification.
Not only was this not brought to our county supervisor's attention by government staff members, but because of a lack of communication between zoning and public works officials, initial approvals for development have been granted on at least one of the parcels without any communication with the neighborhood.
Nor was any consideration given to the environmental impact an increase in density like this will have in an area with documented flooding after rainstorms. Because the developer is submitting plans parcel by parcel, Public Works is not seeing the big picture that a doubling of homes will have in our area. Our frustration stems from having the density in our neighborhood potentially doubled without any consideration given to the impact on the existing residents.
Fairfax County needs to take a hard look at existing zoning and public works regulations as they relate to infill development to address these concerns and ensure they are consistent with Objective 8 of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, which states, "Protect and enhance existing neighborhoods by ensuring that infill development is of compatible use and density, and that adverse impacts on . . . the environment and the surrounding community will not occur."
Mark and Nancy Welch
[The Welches live in the Alexandria section of Fairfax.]
To Honor Fallen Officers,
Consider a Contribution
The article on Chris Cosgriff's online police officer memorial ["To Protect and Preserve," Fairfax Extra, Aug. 18] reminded me that there is more to do than just memorialize fallen officers.
I would like to suggest to my fellow metropolitan area residents that if they really want to help when a police officer is killed in the line of duty, they might consider donating to Heroes Inc. This organization provides scholarships and other assistance to the surviving families of fallen officers from this area.
Heroes Inc. is at 666 11th St. NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20001. I should point out that I am in no way connected to this organization, other than being a longtime donor. For that matter, other than having been a military policeman during the Vietnam era, I have no law enforcement connections. Occasional tickets don't count.
Forget the Debate:
Dulles Rail Is Not Needed
There have been countless public meetings and discussions on the proposed Dulles rail project.
And even though many citizens (myself included) warned that the projected costs were probably low, our politicians paid no heed. They were either ignorant or really didn't care what the costs would be and pushed forward on apparently low-balled costs. Now they act surprised!
The fact remains that we don't need Dulles rail. New intelligent transportation system technology, such as bus platooning (in which buses follow close together like trains) and highway improvements, such as a direct eastbound on-ramp to the Dulles Access Road at Wiehle Avenue, were not considered in the alternate analyses. Such improvements would make a bus system even more efficient.
But cost-effectiveness has been discarded by the politicians, and we local taxpayers will be the ones who will have to pay through even higher tolls and real estate taxes for a more costly and less efficient mass transportation system.
Ronald A. Weber