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The key to learning is the teacher

By Lucy Klaus

Following my remarks in The Herald about “failing schools,” I was invited to visit Cumberland County’s elementary and middle schools (“Don’t ask for a tax increase,” Feb. 25).

Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin and her staff were available to show me anything I wanted to see and to answer any questions I had. 

I learned a great deal about the issues and challenges related to gaining and maintaining accreditation. We agreed that the key to learning is the teacher. And the teachers I observed were much more than adequate.

 

From my experience as a director of human resources, I appreciate the difficulties Griffin has in recruiting and retaining the best, especially if salaries are not competitive. 

There is no curriculum mandated for Cumberland, so they have to develop their own — deciding what to teach, when and how, with the goal of meeting the Standards of Learning (SOL) benchmarks. 

The commonwealth of Virginia has made major changes in the SOL testing. It is no longer acceptable to teach facts by rote. Students must exhibit a deep understanding and the ability to apply what they have learned.

I was very interested to see the “Partially Accredited: Reconstituted School Application” submitted to the state Department of Education for both of the schools. They are detailed and well thought out. 

If fully implemented, we will see significant improvement in the skill levels of our students. Neighboring districts also struggle with accreditation, including Prince Edward and Buckingham. The percentage of the state’s funding per pupil has decreased since 2009 for many districts in Southside and Southwest Virginia, while the percentage for more affluent districts, like Loudoun, has increased.

Griffin has joined with other districts to lobby for change in state funding.

The children in the rural South should not be shortchanged due to its size and location.

I strongly suggest that you visit your schools and see firsthand what they are doing to upgrade the skills of our students. If they do not have a realistic plan or are failing in the execution of that plan, then hold their feet to the fire. 

Learning was never about fancy buildings and costly programs. It always was and always will be about the quality of our teachers and the quality of those who lead them.

Lucy Klaus lives in Cumberland County. Her email address is lucyk3733@gmail.com.