Local: Education

TJ teachers question quality of Fairfax middle schools

|
Local,Virginia,Education,Lisa Gartner

Math teachers at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology are accusing local middle schools of failing to adequately teach algebra and other concepts to Fairfax County students.

The county's premiere high school, "TJ" is ranked as the No. 2 public school in the nation by US News & World Report. But one-third of freshmen at the Alexandria magnet need remedial sessions with their teachers, according to a letter to the Fairfax County School board obtained by The Washington Examiner.

Tanisha Holland, the admissions director at TJ, is investigating the admissions process. But beyond the exams prospective students take, TJ teachers wrote that they have concerns about the teaching in Fairfax's middle school math classrooms.

"We have evidence that many of our students, particularly those who have taken Algebra I during seventh grade, have not been taught or had exposure to key Algebra I course topics," the seven TJ math teachers wrote.

As for the evidence, some of the teachers gave their freshmen tests filled with questions the students should have learned in middle school. On three questions about algebra concepts, 17 percent, 19 percent and 64 percent of students said they did not know or could not remember the answer.

The TJ teachers also said middle schools allow for makeup quizzes and homework assignments, which "inflate the original grade and prevent effective identification of top students."

John Torre, a spokesman for Fairfax County Public Schools, said the school system does not have an official policy on retaking tests and homework. "However, we recognize that students are at varying stages of development and readiness and are continually learning, and therefore FCPS promotes practices that allow more time to learn when necessary," Torre said.

He also defended the schools' middle school math curriculum, and said middle schools work with the high schools they feed into to ensure the curricula are aligned. "We are confident that our students are experiencing a true honors curriculum regardless of whether they take Algebra I Honors in middle school or high school," he said.

Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said TJ teachers shouldn't make assumptions about what's going on in the middle schools.

"A teacher who does not observe another teacher teaching, they don't know," he said.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment