Option One: Spend More Money. Option Two: Replicate Patrick County.

The student pass rate for the reading portion of Standards of Learning has improved from 55% in 1998 to 83% in 2010. So says a new report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, “Strategies to Promote Third Grade Reading Performance in Virginia.” But given the number of disadvantaged and disabled children in the population, it will be a struggle reaching the ultimate goal of 95%.

Only one school division, Patrick County, exceeded that goal in 2010. However, progress can be met with mo’ money, JLARC contends. The two most costly initiatives proposed in this study — funding more reading coaches and literacy specialists for grades K-3 — would cost between $40 and $70 million.

That’s one approach. Here’s another. Dispatch JLARC to Patrick County: population 18,500; unemployment rate, 9.7%; household income, 37% below the national average; dominant ethnic group, Bubba; and per pupil expenditures, 12% below the state average. Find out what Patrick County is doing, then replicate it. (Could it have something to do with an initiative launched by Patrick County native Gerald Baliles more than a decade ago? I’d love to know.)


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5 responses to “Option One: Spend More Money. Option Two: Replicate Patrick County.”

  1. A few years ago, I was talking with a teachers union official. He told me that Richmond City Schools had higher reading scores than Fairfax County Public Schools for third graders. And then he showed me the data. I wonder whether this holds true today.
    As Groveton regularly notes, Fairfax County has more poor people than any other place in Virginia. But is that all of the story? The teacher thought no. He blamed much of the problem on the then practice of FCPS to avoid teaching phonics to primary grade students.

  2. Since we’re going down memory lane with old blog posts …


    The man is only 71 years old. Young enough to run against Kaine and Allen for US Senate? Young enough to run for governor again?

    C’Mon Jerry – we need you.

  3. The phonics issue is a big one. I know of someone who is participating in the start-up of a private school in Henrico County. The primary selling points: ()a Christian education and (b) teaching reading through phonics. Oh, yeah, and tuition way lower than the cost of a public school education.

  4. I believe that Fairfax County has returned to the use of phonics in primary grades.


    This still leaves open TMT’s unspoken question of why they ever left the practice.

    I think the big issues for Fairfax County are English as a Second Language and class size. ESOL is a very expensive program. And, the very large average class sizes have more and more upper income parents sending their kids to private schools despite Fairfax County’s still strong reputation for public education. We’ll see how this all shakes out over the next 10 years or so.

  5. the problem is not money per se – it’s HOW we spend the current amount.

    If you look at most schools in Va , you’ll find that a substantial amount of funding is local funding not mandated by the state for SOQs. In some places like Fairfax, the percentage is way more than half.

    this money is purely discretionary and quite a bit of it does NOT go for elementary programs like reading coaches and literacy specialists which are proven multipliers for demographically at risk kids.

    Ironically the mandated money spent for this purpose in most schools is FEDERAL money… yes that hated boot of thuggery… the Fed Dept of Ed…because DEAR FRIENDS – the state does not mandate it and the locals will not spend their discretionary money for that purpose.

    WHERE is the local discretionary money spent instead?

    I’m glad you asked that question.

    take a look at what the State and Feds do not mandate and you have the answer although you’ll never see it in most School Budgets that do a yeoman job of disguising where local money is spent instead.

    it gets spent on things that are NOT core academics…and it often does not get spent for the very things that JLARC (and many others) have identified as cost effective… as well as effective.

    we spend money on high school coaches and 4th year Latin and tennis courts RATHER than on the things that JLARC has identified.

    and so the answer comes back that if you REALLY want the school to PRIORITIZE money that instead of forcing them to actually PRIORITIZE – they want MORE money….without strings of course…

    By the way ANOTHER way to identify what is actually important in funding education – take a look at the current kerfuffle in determining how much Virtual Schooling sans the “extras” SHOULD cost. This is other issue that will surface in this years GA.

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