Objection to Class Size Increase sign now

As parents of Advanced Academic students, we object to first the 3-student, and now the 4-student, increase to the elementary school AAP staffing formula proposed by Dr. Jack Dale.

Without any published justification, Fairfax County Schools already provide more staff for the elementary school general education population than for the gifted population. This newest proposal would only worsen the current staffing disparity and would do so in the absence of any empirical or academic evidence showing that overcrowded classrooms somehow disadvantage gifted learners less than other learners.

We are troubled by Dr. Dales readiness to deeply cut AAP staffing, and believe that it reflects a patent disregard for the very real needs of this student population. It is absolutely incorrect to assume that AAP classes are largely populated by a homogeneous group of highly focused, well behaved students. Many of the traits that are characteristic of gifted learners carry with them extra instructional challenges.

In addition, Fairfax Countys rationale that Level IV Center programs are voluntary and that parents may simply opt their children out if they desire a lower teacher-to-student ratio is appalling. Most AAP students attend the Center program because the general education program has already failed to meet their needs. Above average and gifted learners draw little teacher attention as teachers are required to devote the majority of instructional time to helping low-achieving students attain proficiency.

By all rights, school should be a haven for gifted children, but general education programs are often a source of frustration and disappointment for gifted learners.

While we certainly understand the dire financial conditions facing Fairfax County and indeed the nation, these conditions neither necessitate nor justify discriminating against the County's AAP population by further exacerbating existing staffing disparities. This proposal is indefensible from many angles, but even more so given that many AAP teachers are already instructing 30+ students.

The havoc triggered by an additional 10-12 students per AAP classroom will achieve next to nothing in terms of correcting the County's extreme budget shortfall; the ramifications on our children's education may be extreme.

We, the undersigned, hope that upon reflection, Dr. Dale will rethink this short-sighted approach to budget balancing. The dollars that could be saved are few and the harm that would be wrought is great. Do not worsen the discrimination against this group.

Increasing the class size as proposed would be unfair to teachers, gifted learners and parents alike and would undercut the purpose of the Center programs so greatly as to render them ineffective.

The economic crisis is dire, but it does not justify such draconian cuts to gifted education.

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Everett MerrittBy:
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Dr. Jack Dale and Members of the Fairfax County School Board:

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