Some schools get a bad rap, and Perrymont Elementary is one of those schools.
But I’d like to tell you a different story today, not hearsay or rumors, but my story: Our Perrymont story.
Perrymont is a true neighborhood school. It is surrounded by quaint, compact homes that were built in the 1940-50s. We live less than a block away and my twin boys—now third grade—walk out our backyard and across the street each day to get to school.
Every child at Perrymont is eligible to receive a free breakfast and lunch. Although my sons gobble down hot, buttery eggs and toast every day at home, they often tell me about the 2nd breakfast they eat at school. I laugh at their crazy appetites but am sobered by the fact that, for many of the children at their school, the government provided meals may be the only food they get during the day.
The unique demographic at Perrymont presents some challenges but the administration and faculty are committed to meeting every student’s needs in the most effective and creative way possible.
And I’m not just parroting the Lynchburg City School slogan (“Every child by name and need until graduation”): I’ve seen it first hand.
I’ve spent the last two years as the parent representative on the School Improvement committee. These monthly meetings cover all the behind the scenes measures that the teachers put in place to help their students meet the standards of learning in each subject.
I am privileged to hear about all the imaginative measures the teachers use (small group instruction, stations, manipulatives, differentiated curriculum to meet each child’s needs, etc), as well as the ways the teachers are supported by teaching and behavior coaches on a regular basis. I’ve been able to celebrate the victories of each grade along with these wonderful educators in my time on this committee.
A strong focus of our meetings is on test scores, both benchmarks and preparing the children for standardized testing. This is an area that Perrymont has struggled in, unfortunately. But I know that low test scores do not tell the whole story for this school. Test scores are only one facet of a school’s success, and I’d like to tell you why.
My twins boys, Micah and Benji, have gone to Perrymont since pre-K. This is our 5th year at the school.
In Pre-K and Kindergarten, we wondered about some developmental delays and even learning disabilities for Benji, but he had such excellent and experienced teachers that his needs were always met and he excelled the first two years of school.
First grade was different. He had a first-year teacher who was just learning the ropes and the large academic leap from Kindergarten to first grade made me aware that he had some challenges that needed to be addressed, now.
Public schools do not typically test for learning disabilities in first grade (3rd grade is typically when most children are tested) but when I brought my concerns to the administration and his teacher, they took me seriously and we began a Child Study for my son, a long and intense process to discover if he had learning disabilities.
The Child Study did not end until after school was out of the year, and because of the difficulties Benji had, he failed first grade.
But I will never forget how the principal left the decision up to my husband and me as to whether or not we would hold Benji back or move him to 2nd grade. Ultimately, because Benji is an identical twin, we decided to move him to 2nd grade, with an IEP in place to address the specific language processing learning disability we discovered through the child study.
To say I was nervous about this decision was an understatement, but throughout 2nd grade and then into 3rd grade, Benji has thrived.
The administration has been so personal in his education and even made more accommodations for him when we discovered that he is Autistic. This year, his regular 3rd grade teacher has a special-ed background with a specialty in Autism. I am beyond thankful for her attention to detail and emotional support she, and his special ed teacher, give him every day.
We’ve come a long way in the last two years and I have a lot to be thankful for. But here’s one more reason to celebrate both my son and Perrymont Elementary.
Benji just took his first SOL (Virginia’s standardized test) and PASSED. That’s right—my son, who failed first grade and who still has challenges with language and reading on a daily basis, passed his reading SOL on the first attempt, thanks to the dedicated, persistent, and creative efforts and preparation of his teachers.
I’m the first to say that test scores aren’t everything; in fact, I told my boys that, “pass or fail, test scores don’t affect your value one bit.”
Sadly, test scores do affect the way that people see schools. But test scores often do not tell the whole story.
Perrymont Elementary is an excellent school that cares for the needs of each student at the school and meets the challenges of those students with wisdom, grace, creativity, and persistence on a daily basis.
Thank you Perrymont! I’m proud that you have been a part of my sons’ story over these past five years.