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Reconstitution and Riverdale, Part 2

by David Hiles

Last month, I covered some of the questions raised by the Maryland Board of Education's addition of Riverdale Elementary to its list of reconstitution-eligible schools. Here is the next set of questions and answers.

Why did Riverdale get on the reconstitution list?

Elementary schools are judged based on attendance and MSPAP scores. Our attendance rate slipped to 93.8 percent. 94 percent is satisfactory and our MSPAP scores are low. Surprisingly, our MSPAP scores for third grade Title 1 students are HIGHER tha the Title 1 third grade scores for Montgomery County.

Scores reflect what has happened in the past, not what is currently going on. Our scores ar low not only because of our turbulent past, but also because more than 40 percent of our students are new each year. I think our scores greatly under-represent the education gained by students who come to Riverdale and stay here.

How will this affect our real estate values?

As you look around, you can see that Riverdale is a community on the move upward, whether it is in a better Kenilworth Avenue, a great train stop, excellent Metro service, a town center that will finally be rebuilt, or the Saturday music nights at the bookshop.

Riverdale's current real estat values, as well as values throughout PRince George's County, are held down because of the perceived quality of our school system. Since our system is improving and Riverdale Elementary is improving, Riverdale property is a great investment.

Reputation alwos trails behind performance. Reconstitution hurts our reputation, but as we continue to implement Success For All, continue to reduce overcrowding, and contniu developing na experience body of teachres, we will see improvement.

System-wide, there are reasons to expect improvement

  1. We no longer have to bus students to meet a 1970's desegregation plan, so parents and students are starting to come back to their community schools throughout the county. One reason why PG scores are low is because of the large number of middle-class children in private schools. As these students return, our scores will go up.

  2. The system is putting the right practices into place. Superintendent Metts instituted all-day kindergarten, reduced class sizes in K-3, focused on a return to basics, and started mandatory summer school for kids who are behind. These changes have proven effective throughout the country, and they will pay off.

  3. School underfunding is becoming an issue. Our system has been starved of funds since TRIM was passed shortly after the desegregation plan was implemented. The State of Maryland did not step in and meet its responsibility for quality education for all Marylanders. The Thornton Commission report documents the inadequacy of the current Maryland system of school funding. Other states have been forced by the courts to fix their funding formulas. Maryland has to fix it fast or face lawsuits like the one that parents recently won in New York State.

How does the conflict between the Superintendent and the Board of Education affect Riverdale?

Hmm. Well, it doesn't make improvement easier...

David Hiles is this year's Riverdale Elementary School PTA President. He can be reached at 301-779-8620, or at riverdalepta@yahoo.com. This article is his opinion. It does not express PTA or school policy.

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