- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2002

RICHMOND The president of Virginia's largest teachers organization said yesterday that she was "a little ticked" by state education officials' claims that some instructors continue to resist preparing students for the Standards of Learning.

"It was a blanket indictment of teachers and principals and kids, and I don't think that's fair," Jean Bankos of the Virginia Education Association said.

Mark C. Christie, president of the State Board of Education, chastised on Thursday the state's lowest-rated schools for failure to transfer the SOLs from paper to classroom instruction.

Mr. Christie said his criticism was aimed at perhaps a third of the 97 schools that failed for a second consecutive year to meet state standards for student achievement in at least one subject.

Miss Bankos, however, rejected the notion that even a tiny percentage of the state's educators are refusing to prepare students for the SOLs.

"I don't think there's a teacher or principal who gets up in the morning and says, 'Let's go see what I can do wrong today.' You have to look at the climate of the school and what are the resources," Miss Bankos said.

Mr. Christie made his comments as the board heard a report on "academic reviews" of schools that received the state's lowest rating: accredited with warning. Those are schools where less than a third of the students passed reading or math tests for their grade level.

"It is inexcusable that seven years into the [SOL] program, we still have this situation in classrooms where we have complete failure to do the right thing," he said.

Miss Bankos said the failing schools face "enormous challenges" such as poverty and other external factors, but Mr. Christie said other schools with nearly identical demographics are succeeding.

Board member Susan Noble, an elementary school principal in Goochland County, agreed.

"We've got to stop accepting excuses," she said.

Petersburg School Superintendent Ray V. Spain said district officials are doing their best to correct problems at the nine city schools on the warning list for a second consecutive year. He said he was not upset by Mr. Christie's remarks, although he was not entirely in agreement.

"I wouldn't say we have a large group of teachers who are resisting teaching the standards," Mr. Spain said.

Public school officials in Richmond, where 26 schools failed to meet standards two years in a row, did not immediately return a phone call yesterday.

Richmond School Board member J. William Midkiff Jr. said Mr. Christie's remarks were "offensive."

"Our teachers have to be more than teachers to many of these students," he said. "They have to be social workers, friends, confidants, laundry workers. Most of the teachers I know are trying their hardest to get these kids to the standards."

Miss Bankos said that instead of blaming teachers and principals, state officials should do more to help struggling schools.

Mr. Spain said Petersburg is getting adequate technical assistance from the state but not enough money.

"While we know we have to make changes, this year our budget has been cut over $1.2 million from the state," he said. "We're simply not going to have the resources we need to make some of these changes."

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