By Karen Graf
The summer is coming to an end and the start of school is right around the corner. The Alexandria City Public Schools facilities department has been working all summer to ready the schools; the curriculum team has been strengthening programs and leadership teams have been hard at work implementing our new strategic plan. Teachers have been working in the schools for the last two weeks to familiarize themselves with their students and new staff.
But, before we start, it is also healthy to take a moment for a little bit of celebration.
Last summer, Superintendent Alvin Crawley worked on strengthening the core curriculum, building professional development and recruiting top talent. The direct result of that work was seen in this year’s Standards of Learning test results, showing consistent growth across four core areas. After just one year as permanent superintendent, it is a strong indicator that the work Dr. Crawley did last summer with his staff inspired them to produce their best.
Crawley and his team set a goal that schools try to accomplish an average of 5 to 7 percentage point increases in the core areas. Instead many schools showed double-digit growth in multiple areas.
An example that we are all excited to share is Jefferson-Houston School. Under the leadership of principal Christopher Phillips, the school has seen growth in double digits in all core areas and came a hair away from achieving the benchmarks. But what’s more incredible from the state perspective is that they met two years’ worth of goals out of the three set for them last fall. There is also good news all round to celebrate:
• John Adams saw incredible growth in English and a 9 percentage-point increase in mathematics.
• Charles Barrett knocked it out of the park in four core areas, bringing all of them close to the 90th percentile.
• Patrick Henry is expected to receive full accreditation and seems unstoppable with large percentage-point increases across all areas.
• Cora Kelly has solid growth in all areas, and went from 77 percent to 86 percent passing in history.
• Lyles-Crouch has scores in the 80s and 90s and is now at a 98 percent pass rate in history.
• MacArthur now has almost all scores in the 80s.
• George Mason and Maury hold steady with strong scores in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
• Mount Vernon moves reading 3 percentage points, while math holds steady.
• James Polk saw significant growth in reading, taking most of their core areas into and above the upper 60s.
• Ramsay saw an average of around 9-percentage point growth in three areas and 28 percentage points in science.
• Samuel Tucker’s growth cements them in the top percentiles.
• Francis Hammond Middle School did awesome in history, and saw growth in all other areas, especially science by 15 percentage points.
• George Washington Middle School saw a steady growth of around 6 percentage points on average.
• T.C. Williams saw firm growth across the core areas, with a 6-percentage point increase in math, bringing it above the state benchmark. It is expecting to be fully accredited this year.
The one thing about education is that we celebrate the successes for a very short time. Educators are always looking forward to the next stage of the work. So what about this coming year? Dr. Crawley and his staff are working tirelessly to continue growth in special education, English language learners and professional development. Our new hires in the schools and central office come with rich experience that can only benefit the division.
While we have our work still cut out for us, it never hurts to take a moment to celebrate our achievements. The first day of school is nearly here and ACPS is ready for another great year.
The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board.