Call it a mistake. If you’re so inclined, call it what you will on 11 November.
I hope the Public Schools realize that they are competing – that when my clients come to town, they are evaluating which school districts are best, which ones fit best, and which ones will likely best help their future houses hold value and hopefully appreciate. When my clients come to the area, whether Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Nelson or Fluvanna, they ask about the schools. Those with kids, those without kids, those with kids on the way, those who never will have kids. They ask for one reason:
School quality, desirability and marketability impact home prices. You could show me thirty studies with hard empirical data, sourced and peer-reviewed by 73 Nobel Laureates saying that home prices are not affected by schools; and they would all be wrong.
Or more a more definitive statement:
Local school quality is the deciding factor for nearly a quarter of the people shopping for homes. You probably already know that homes near good schools are worth more, but you might not realize that they hold their value better, too.
It has been found that attendance areas with higher school ratings have higher property values, all else constant.
Which leads us to …
… this email last week from the Albemarle CASE group:
Please spread the word about CASE. Citizens of Albemarle Supporting Education is a citizens’ network dedicated to improving accountability and performance in Albemarle County Public Schools. This group was founded to educate the Albemarle community about the 4×4 schedule and semesterization using peer reviewed research. C.A.S.E. seeks to increase transparency and to improve community involvement in local educational policy.
Visit www.albemarlecase.com and sign our petition to save our schools and our house prices!
I have talked to quite a few parents and high schoolers about their perceptions and reactions to the block scheduling, and thought it would be useful to ask the opinion of Champion Tutoring for their perspective, and I received this gracious response:
Thanks for asking. It’s been a really interesting year, actually. This is my third year at Champion, and our 16th year in business. My first two fall seasons echoed earlier trends, basically a huge rush in late August–parents calling in to reserve spots for students who knew they’d need regular 1 on 1 assistance in a core subject. So we’d see a boom around early September, and I could barely catch my breath until mid October.
I had expected the new 4×4 to kick this into high gear. We armed ourselves for the floodgates, basically (I’m mixing metaphors, I know). However, interestingly, we didn’t get that in August/September. It’s now, rather than September, when we’re starting to see an increase.
If I had to guess, I’d say parents/students didn’t know what to expect w/ the 4×4? So they were waiting to see, and now that things are moving at a really fast pace, they’re seeking the 1 on 1 assistance? I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts, as a parent in the thick of the 4×4. We really want to do our best to serve our population’s needs–many of our teachers have many years of classroom experience and would love an opportunity to know more specifics about how to help.
I have been asked before to comment on the block schedule “from a Realtor’s perspective” and here is my comment:
From my point of view, the teachers are overworked and not able to teach effectively. The students are overworked and not learning as effectively as they could or should and are not given the attention that they need. From our personal experience, we are extremely reluctant to miss a day of school, as there is very little chance of ever recapturing what was taught on that day – there is too much information and too little time at school.
The media tends to pile on to a story, but there seems to be little defense being put forth from Albemarle County Schools, although I know they are trying their absolute best.
Carmen Garcia, the mother of one student at Western and two at Henley (where she serves as PTO vice president), said she called former School Board member Brian Wheeler about the schedule policy change last spring. “My intuition said this doesn’t sound right. Wheeler said that this is what the experts were telling them to do, but he couldn’t explain it. He said there wasn’t going to be a vote. Then they rushed adoption without a public hearing. I read about it in the paper the next morning. It made me mad. Once school started and reality hit, we had to organize. Many parents tell me they are angry about the policy but feel powerless to change it.”
School administrators argued the schedule shift would save $800,000 by allowing 13 teachers to be cut without adding to class sizes. The 4×4 compresses classes that are traditionally yearlong into one semester. It was a speed-up-the-line move on some teachers who now have to teach six classes a year for their pay rather than five. Some teachers at Western Albemarle, admitting to feeling miserable but helpless, said they wouldn’t sign the CASE petition out of fear of reprisal from administrators.
A slew of parents sent the School Board angry letters, obtained by The Daily Progress through the Freedom of Information Act. They contended that they should not have been cut out of the decision-making process. Many parents said they first heard of the idea from a news article — after the School Board approved the schedule.
“I see no clear justification for this program, which has been abandoned by many other school systems,” said parent Mark Echelberger. Invoking Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he added, “I fear teachers and students have been left standing on the shore.”