Our vision for Albemarle County Public Schools is for all students to believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel and to own their future. The most effective way to achieve this vision is to establish a community of learners through rigor, relevance and relationships, built one student at a time.
These are inspiring words and it’s helpful from time to time to measure how we’re doing in moving closer to realizing our vision. How well, for instance, are we preparing students to succeed as members of the global community?
One recent snapshot suggests we’re making progress although there continues to be plenty of room for improvement.
For the most recent academic year, Albemarle County students continued to outperform state and national averages. Our on-time graduation rate of 92.9 percent is seven percent better than the average for all school divisions in the state.
Our Standards of Learning (SOL) test results are improving despite recent class size increases. Our seventh grade math students, for example, scored 16.3 percentile points better than their Virginia peers and elementary school students are four percentile points better in the state in reading and writing test results.
Our students also are doing comparatively well on SAT tests, scoring eight percent above statewide averages and 10 percent ahead of students nationally. The results are similar across the board for all portions of the test-verbal, math and written.
A well-rounded education is a significant contributor to being successful in a diverse, dynamic, highly competitive global community, and the strength of our students is not limited to academics.
We have had, for example, a 31 percent increase in student participation in the fine arts and during the past year, Albemarle County students delivered some 240 performances. More than 600 of our students are members of band, choral, strings and drama programs. The Virginia Theater Association and the Virginia High School League both recognized Albemarle High School students as the best in the state in competitions during 2010 and they added another state title this year.
In Career and Technical Education, our enrollment has increased by nearly 25 percent. The percentage of students who complete studies in such areas as engineering and architectural drawing, information management, web design and Geospatial technology, and who graduate on time was 99.6 percent, 20 percentage points above the state average. Students in these programs are earning college credits, working in internships and preparing themselves for opportunities in career categories where marketplace demand will remain strong.
Healthy minds and healthy bodies are a powerful combination and our students are measuring up well compared to their peers across the state. The Virginia fitness-testing program provides students with health-related fitness assessments that link to overall quality-of-life. Scientific research is used to determine Healthy Fitness Zones for several fitness and health indicators, including body composition. In several grade levels, the percentage of students within the Healthy Fitness Zone far exceeds the state average. For instance, 88 percent of our fourth grade girls were in this category compared to a 67 percent state average and 75 percent of our fourth grade boys were within the Healthy Fitness Zone compared to a 67 percent state average. In high school, 82 percent of tenth grade boys were in the Healthy Fitness Zone compared to a 66 percent state average and for tenth grade girls the comparable results were 75 percent an 66 percent.
In competitive athletics, our athletic tams had some 4,000 participants, winning 17 district championships, 13 regional championships and one state title.
While these achievements are encouraging, they should be just the beginning of broader based and greater success stories in future years. As parents and county residents who value education and the impact it has on the quality of life in our communities, there are several ways you can help us realize our highest aspirations:
- Consider volunteering. Volunteerism is a civic virtue in America. We realize parents are busy people with their own jobs and activities, but when you can spare some time, it makes an outsized difference in the classroom.
- There also are a number of specific ways you can offer your perspectives to the School Board and staff. Our Parent Council members represent each school community throughout the year in monthly meetings with the superintendent and central staff. Parent representatives share resources, work on joint programs, and discuss questions and concerns pertinent to the school division and schools in general. We also receive feedback from advisory groups that represent the interests of students, including our Special Education Advisory Committee(SEAC), Gifted Advisory Committee, and the Health Advisory Board. To find out more about volunteerism, please visit our Community Engagement website or email Gloria Rockhold at email@example.com
- If you have questions or concerns, don’t wait until those concerns become a bigger problem. Finding the right balance between waiting too long to contact the teacher and being a “helicopter” parent is important. Some things that should never wait include bullying of your child or another child, issues related to bus ridership, your child feeling overwhelmed with work at home or being upset about relationships with the teacher. If your instinct says something isn’t going well, reach out to your child’s teacher.
- Thank an educator for helping your child- or other children – in some special way. There are so many fabulous educators in our schools who work hard and with uncommon devotion. They are up early and are late to bed because of their commitment to their students. I know many educators who enthusiastically donate time and money to help a child or an entire class. There is nothing as valued by an educator as a personal note, email, or call from you saying “I appreciated when……”
-Billy Hahn, Assistant Superintendent