ACPS exceeding Virginia’s standards for education

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 10:45 AM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia sets certain standards for its schools, including student-to-teacher ratios, school counselors, and learning standards.

Many schools try and exceed these standard of quality (SOQ) for a better learning environment, but it isn’t always easy: the state budget only has to provide funding for the minimum standard.

“Less is more really in the classroom,” Meaghan Craddock, a teacher with Albemarle County Public Schools, said.

ACPS says it tries to exceed the state’s SOQ, especially when it comes to the ratio of students to teachers.

“We feel that with lower class sizes and lower nurse-to-student ratios, that we can give students more individual attention,” ACPS Deputy Superintendent Debora Collins said.

The state sets the cap at 35 students per classroom for fourth grade up through high school, and 30 kids per room for lower grade levels. ACPS says that’s too many, and tries to keep its class sizes under 20.

“We can give them more feedback in classrooms, we can have students know each other better,” Collins said.

“In my second grade class this year, I have 17 students, which is wonderful. Usually, under 20 is the best. I can have small groups, I know all my parents, I know my students strengths and weaknesses,” Craddock said.

All of that comes at a price.

“This year, we we’re able to lower the class size by one student per class, and that’s about $2.5 million. So you can see that that is substantial,” Collins said.

That money goes to hiring more teachers.

Since Virginia is only required to provide funding to meet the minimum standards, doing better shifts the cost shifts to the individual district. Let’s say the General Assembly passes money in the budget to give teachers a 5% raise. If a district has more than the minimum number of teachers, it has to pay for that 5% increase for its extra teachers out of its own budget.

“I think for us what’s most important is to have the best adults we can hire and keep in a position that adds stability, not only for kids but also the schools so that you’re not replacing everybody every year that you have momentum going forward,” Greer Elementary School Principal Steve Saunders said.

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