Filling in the blanks: Taking stock after the final bell rings

Filling in the blanks: Taking stock after the final bell rings
School board chairwoman Karen Graf

By Karen Graf

Alexandria City Public Schools continues its journey towards academic excellence with a focus on educating lifelong learners and inspiring civic responsibility. T.C. Williams’ Class of 2016 was sent off with proper pomp and circumstance. The last day of school was met with students running out of the buildings all across the city, cheer- ing for summer.

The first year of the five-year ACPS 2020 strategic plan has now come to a close. It is time to take a moment to reflect on our school year successes before evaluating the data and benchmarks to prep for the next school year.

Preschool is an important component to a child’s success in the travel through primary and secondary education. ACPS showed a commitment to early education and wrap-around services by proposing a pre-K model that would help families access the best start in ACPS.

In partnership with The Campagna Center, the city and the early care in education workgroup, the city took another step in the Youth Master Plan and the common agenda. With every small step, our community advances the concepts of early care and our commitment to the youth in the city.

When city council fully funded the school system’s capital budget, ACPS also was able to build a new elementary school, which helps ease some of the over population on the West End.

Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley and his team made strides in developing and tracking school and department plans. He also kicked off training and development of the multi-tiered system of support, a practice for assisting educators in addressing the needs of their unique student populations.

The International Academy, a program to support the education of English language learners, expanded at Francis Hammond Middle School and grew throughout the year. This program started at T.C. Williams and its first class graduated this year.

The International Academy is a program that supports language learners in up to four classes throughout a year. Students engage in learning in mixed groups of language levels and native languages, so they are able to advance their knowledge during the acquisition of English. After four years of the supports being in place for a language learner, Crawley reported, attendance increased, drop-out rates decreased and the graduation rate improved.

In an effort to develop emotional and social support for our students, Crawley and his team formed an equity committee and a cultural competence plan for the district. This plan looks to foster positive self-perception, provides a myriad of opportunities for students, supports families and fosters great communities.

There are so many successes that our students have had, from winning music and choral awards to science and history day competitions. There are so many more impressive student accomplishments, like poetry or film awards, that it would take up far too much space to list them. But to learn more, sign up for the ACPS Express through the district’s web site at

You will learn how hard your city’s school system is working to give every child access to educational opportunities. I am truly impressed with our teachers and school staff. I do hope that they get some rest over the summer, but I know that they are quietly working to set up for another successful year for our children.

The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board.