We parents of FCPS students have serious concerns about the FCPS Staff Proposal to restructure the AAP Middle School Center program:
· FCPS Staff has failed to provide sufficient details of the restructuring proposal, any associated policy changes or the underlying rationale that would justify such wide-ranging student reassignment and major policy changes in the AAP program. Very limited information has been made public despite the substantial impact that this proposal will have on all FCPS middle schools and students. Sweeping change demands a detailed, well-supported, and carefully implemented plan.
· FCPS Staff has not provided the Fairfax County community, particularly parents, with sufficient opportunity to give feedback on the impact and advisability of the restructuring plan. Constructive feedback has been severely hindered by the very limited public forums and the lack of published details. Parents and staff deserve more notice, more information, and more opportunity to give meaningful input.
· The FCPS Staff proposal appears to represent a major policy change regarding AAP Centers and the ability of parents to make appropriate choices for their children’s education. School Board members, not FCPS staff, are supposed to make FCPS policy. Accordingly, no changes to the AAP Program should be made until after the entire School Board has a chance to draft, discuss and vote on an official School Board Policy on AAP programs.
· There is no current School Board Policy on AAP Centers. Verbal and written assurances are not binding on FCPS staff or principals in the future, unless these assurances are incorporated in an official School Board Policy. For example, unless a School Board Policy specifies that middle schools will offer separate AAP Center, Honors and general education classes, one or more of these levels of instruction may be blended or combined in the future notwithstanding recent assurances by FCPS staff that they have changed their proposal so that middle school Center and Honors classes will not be blended. The FCPS School Board must adopt specific Policy measures designed to ensure the integrity of the AAP curriculum as part of any proposal to change the AAP Program.
· Students currently have the option to remain at their base schools and take Honors classes or to attend a middle school with an established AAP Center. If the latter option is taken away by policy or practice, this is NOT an expansion of services, as euphemistically suggested by the FCPS staff -- it would decrease services to AAP students and could also undermine educational opportunities more broadly. Students must receive a commitment from the School Board that all AAP Centers at the middle school level will provide general education, Honors and AAP classes in all core curriculum classes and not diminish the level of any educational offering so that all students will have appropriately challenging educational opportunities at all Centers.
· FCPS Staff has not detailed what preparations the new “AAP centers” will undertake to provide the rigorous educational experience currently offered at existing AAP middle school centers, particularly given the extremely short time frame presented by the Staff proposal. With the influx of center-qualified students, there are numerous issues and needs to be addressed: teacher and administrative training; staff reassignment; facility readiness/capacity; provision of robust extracurricular offerings such as Science Olympiad, Math Counts, etc. In some middle schools, there will be few students at the AAP Center, undermining one of the benefits of AAP Centers as originally structured – to bring together a critical mass of highly able, advanced students to enhance each others’ learning opportunities. Before any change is adopted in any middle school in the county, the School Board should adopt a detailed AAP Center Policy which would include requirements relating to middle schools such as:
o Ensuring that every school with a Center has a critical mass of AAP Center students so that the Center compares favorably to the better-regarded, established Centers;
o Scheduling separate Center, Honors and general education classes, to ensure effective differentiation and challenging educational opportunities for all students;
o Publishing accurate information on differences between Center and Honors classes in each subject;
o Publishing data annually on the number of students at each middle school who take Center classes, Honors classes, and general education classes in each school;
o Assigning Center students to the same grade-level teams so they are grouped with similar ability peers, and implementing an appropriate process for selecting teachers for those middle school teams;
o Requiring strong co-curricular offerings such as Science Olympiad, MathCounts, Model UN, and others.
Students and parents deserve more specifics than vague assurances about the impact and plans at every school.
· FCPS Staff has not explained how the middle school proposal fits into and complements its overall restructuring of the AAP program. Many cross-pyramid/cluster center assignments will apparently be maintained at the elementary school level because of overcrowding and other issues. This dilutes the need and presumed justification for the middle school overhaul. A comprehensive, long-term restructuring proposal for the AAP Program requires more thoughtful planning and coordination of elementary and middle school Center assignments.
· FCPS Staff has not explained how the substantial influx of new students into existing middle schools without AAP Centers will impact existing student and teacher resources in those schools. Some schools may increase their populations by 400 or more students, leading to the need for future boundary changes or additional construction. Spending money to move trailers and build additions may be a poor use of scarce FCPS resources. Moreover, some schools do not have enough cafeteria, gym, hallway and library space to accommodate the additional students. This massive change will not only affect AAP students, but all students in the FCPS system. All students and parents in the FCPS system deserve detailed information on the potential changes and how the County plans to allocate resources before any change is made at any middle school.
Thorough planning and adequate input from parents, teachers and others in the community would increase confidence among students, parents, teachers, and staff members that the AAP program will maintain the high level of academic rigor and overall excellence that our schools promise and our students deserve.
Unfortunately FCPS Staff has failed to present a comprehensive, sufficiently detailed, and adequately planned long-term proposal for a major FCPS policy change and restructuring of the middle school AAP Center program.
In light of this failure, and given the concerns outlined above, we parents firmly request that the School Board postpone any change and potential impact on thousands of FCPS students until a plan is developed with robust community input and a detailed School Board Policy that fully addresses the concerns identified above.