Editor: There is an old Japanese saying that goes, “A nail that sticks out will be hammered down.” A shining nail in the Arlington school system – Arlington Traditional School, or ATS – is about to be hammered out of all recognition.

ATS sticks out in that it has consistently won just about every award for educational excellence available. Very few schools in the nation can match its record of providing a truly outstanding education to our children.

What makes this record of achievement even more remarkable is that, unlike virtually every other award-winning school, ATS has a majority enrollment of minority and economically disadvantaged students. It has somehow solved a problem that plagues our educational system nationally and in Arlington as well: How do we provide a quality education to those who have the fewest advantages among us?

In a rational, non-ideologically-driven  world one might expect the school system to explore the school’s winning approach and see what lessons might be applied to students elsewhere in the county. But that doesn’t win political points, and we have a School Board more interested in politically correct symbolism than our children.

County school officials are proposing that the traditional-school program be moved from a building specifically designed for it to what is currently the McKinley Elementary School building. This would be the culmination of a steady campaign to destroy this award winning, county-wide program and turn it into just another neighborhood school – one that is good, but no longer great.

Part of the campaign has been to flood it with students. It has more than doubled in size in the last decade and, with this move, is slated to grow by another 100 students with no investment to accommodate this successful program.

Throughout this period, Arlington Public Schools (APS) leadership also has steadily eroded the features that make Arlington Traditional so successful, and shifted much of the administrative control of this program from the school to bureaucrats.

The school system did not have to propose this move. Another countywide program, HB-Woodlawn, enjoys total immunity from any adjustments other schools must make. Even though Woodlawn’s record of educational achievement is no better than other Arlington schools, the size of the program has been protected from increases, and a new, $100-million-plus building has been built to enthrone it.

For the School Board, being progressive counts for more than being successful – even when it comes to educating minority children. Were I the parent of a minority child, I’d be asking the School Board: Why are you closing this door to opportunity in my child’s face?

Michael Driggs, Arlington

(1) comment

ArlMom

It all depends on how you characterize a situation, right? You said, "County school officials are proposing that the traditional-school program be moved from a building specifically designed for it to what is currently the McKinley Elementary School building." I bet the folks who went to Stonewall Jackson Elementary school in that same building (less additions/improvements) might disagree that the building was designed just for ATS. Also, moving ATS to a building with more room for the overflow might be seen by some as a good thing. Your characterization of the HBW situation is incorrect, too. HBW had been in the Stratford Jr High building since 1978. Like ATS, it was in a building that had been there for many years and had served as another school before. It, too, had a few additions (music wing) and improvements (very few). HBW would have preferred to stay in its Vacation Lane home, but it was moved to Rosslyn to a building that couldn't be more different than the well-worn, comfortable, tree and grass surrounded building it was in. The number of students was increased for HBW, and it was moved into an architecturally significant building (yes), but one that is totally different. Walls and floors are unfinished concrete. The building is surrounded by two high-rise construction projects, a temporary fire station, traffic, and has no field or parking. HBW is adjusting, though. It is getting to know and work with commercial neighbors, learning to use nearby garages in buildings, and is glad to be walking distance to metro. As for HBW's academic success, it's really hard to know. All of their scores and statistics are combined with other MS and HS scores, since HBW is a program and not a school. I'd like to see them broken out, but that's not how it's done. Good luck to ATS. I suspect it will continue and be fine.

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