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The Right Note: At Grade Level?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark Kelly

If you have children in Arlington Public Schools and you have attended a back-to-school night for your elementary school student, you have probably heard about the way teachers are supposed to be grading students. A “C” grade is meeting expectations for grade level (See page 9). In other words, when a child brings home a report card full of C’s in Arlington, parents are supposed to feel encouraged about what their child is learning.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy received a “C” average from school staff in the latest APS community survey for his job performance. If he were back in elementary school, it sounds like school staff believe he is performing at grade level, but not exceeding it.

The schools did receive a “B” overall from school staff, with a similar grade coming from students. And, 90 percent of parents rated the schools as an “A” or “B”.

Why not higher scores?

Education is important to us. Arlington is full of overachievers when it comes to education. We rank at or near the top of lists of the most well-educated or most well-read. We are naturally tough graders.

The community has been willing to fund, if not overfund, our schools. The survey itself was fielded in the spring, which was before Murphy shook the couch cushions to find enough money left over from last year’s budget to buy MacBook Air computers for some students.

In fact, college-level tuition is available to Murphy and the School Board for each child, and Arlington’s tax revenue climbs consistently year over year. Murphy and the School Board are never faced with the really hard fiscal choices that faced so many school systems across America.

The future does not get easier for Mr. Murphy and the Board. APS is experiencing levels of enrollment which necessitates finding seats for new students; trailers continue to roll onto green spaces; and, we hear about unaccompanied minors from our southern border arriving in our schools. When you have to add seats, it means financing new school buildings and navigating controversial decisions about where those buildings will go.

But, what happens inside the classroom to educate our children is ultimately more important than what building they are in or where it is located. With more than adequate resources available in a highly educated community, expectations are going to be understandably high. We expect our schools to deliver for our students. And, in the Arlington Way, we will expect decisions to be made after extensive community input.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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