Corbett Sanders: How best to bridge the achievement gap

The front of Bucknell Elementary, with letters spelling out name of school visible on bricks next to awning over main entrance
Bucknell Elementary School was recently recognized for reducing its English achievement gap and exceeding state benchmarks in English, math and science for all student groups.

This column was submitted by Karen Corbett Sanders, the current Mount Vernon District school board representative who is running for re-election with the endorsement of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

As the 10th largest school system in the United States with almost 190,000 students, the Fairfax County Public School’s promise of an excellent education must be realized by every student in the 198 schools and centers it operates.

The school system is the largest in the state and is one of the most diverse with more than 200 languages spoken in the homes of our students. Many of the subgroups (Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, and English learners) that are measured under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) have FCPS student populations the size of our neighboring jurisdictions total enrollment. FCPS is committed to bridging the achievement gap that persists in Fairfax County.

The Strategic Plan Ignite sets the goal of eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps for all subgroups. To support this effort, FCPS is focused on providing instructional supports to help all students achieve academic excellence and building collaborative relationships between families and schools as active partners in their student success.

On October 24, the Fairfax County School Board recognized schools throughout the county that made great strides in bridging the achievement gap in 2018-2019. Although achievement gaps are stagnant across the nation and the state, individual schools are showing great progress.

Four categories of awards were given to the top 10 schools that demonstrated considerable gains in improved performance across all student subgroups and significant reductions in achievement gaps among student subgroups in English and mathematics under the 2017 revised accreditation standards that were approved by the Virginia Board of Education.

Additionally, 106 schools will be recognized during regional meetings for their exemplary performance in meeting or exceeding state benchmarks in each reporting group (English, math and science) and across all student subgroups.

The progress that has been made over the past four years is attributable to FCPS’s increased focus on achievement gaps through the Project Momentum program. Established four years ago, and led by FCPS Director Mark Greenfelder, Project Momentum uses regional support teams comprised of content and data specialists differentiated to each area’s unique needs and accreditation challenges. Project Momentum is a collaborative effort between the Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent and Regional Assistant Superintendents, the Office of School Support and individual school leadership with the support of the School Board. Through Project Momentum, schools are able to build the capacity of classroom teachers to meet the needs of individual students.

The work focuses on five key drivers for school improvement and closing achievement gaps and is based on best practices in academic research on high yield instructional strategies.

  1. Collaborative teams work to ensure instructional programs are implemented with fidelity
  2. Multi-tiered systems of support protocols are developed to address the unique needs of students and schools
  3. High-quality instruction linked to the state standards are aligned with the individual learning targets of students
  4. Working collaboratively, lesson plans are developed to align with the county wide planning and pacing guides
  5. Frequent assessments for learning are used to inform instructional decision making.

Levels of support to individual schools range from sharing of best practices for schools that meet all Federal and State accreditation requirements, needs based staffing for schools that have high percentages of their students living in poverty, additional supports provided to schools that have missed individual state benchmarks, and intensive supports which include instructional coaches, specialized professional development opportunities, and extended teacher contracts to schools that have not met accreditation standards in the past.

Schools recognized by the School Board include:

  • The top 10 schools earning the Excellence in Equity Award for being the highest average increase across all reporting groups in English are: Aldrin Elementary, Armstrong Elementary, Crestwood Elementary, Fort Hunt Elementary, Garfield Elementary, Greenbriar West, Hollin Meadows Elementary, Justice High, Oak Hill Elementary, and Rose Hill Elementary. Fort Hunt Elementary and Hollin Meadows Elementary are in the Mount Vernon District.
  • The top 10 schools earning the Excellence in Equity Award for the highest average increase in mathematics across all reporting groups are: Armstrong Elementary, Fairhill Elementary, Forestdale Elementary, Fort Belvoir Primary, Greenbriar West Elementary, Herndon Middle, Herndon High, Irving Middle, Mount Eagle Elementary, and Woodson High. Fort Belvoir Primary and Mount Eagle Elementary are schools that Mount Vernon District students attend.
  • The top 10 schools earning the Excellence in Equity Award for reducing the English achievement gap are: Armstrong Elementary, Baileys Upper Elementary, Bryant High, Bucknell Elementary, Crestwood Elementary, Flint Hill Elementary, Garfield Elementary, Greenbriar West Elementary, Lake Anne Elementary, and Oak Hill Elementary. Bryant High and Bucknell Elementary are in the Mount Vernon District.
  • The top 10 schools earning the Excellence in Equity Award for reducing the mathematics achievement gap are: Centreville Elementary, Edison High, Fairhill Elementary, Greenbriar West Elementary, Hunters Woods Elementary, Marshall High, Mount Eagle Elementary, Orange Hunt Elementary, Willow Springs Elementary, and Wolftrap Elementary. Edison High and Mount Eagle Elementary are schools Mount Vernon District students attend.
  • The following schools have met or exceeded state benchmarks for each reporting group (English, math, science) and all student subgroups: Aldrin ES, Armstrong ES, Clearview ES, Colvin Run ES, Cooper MS, Dranesville ES, Flint Hill ES, Forest Edge ES, Forestville ES, Fox Mill ES, Great Falls ES, Hunters Woods ES, Hutchison ES, Lake Anne ES, Langley HS, Madison HS, Mosby Woods ES, Oakton HS, Spring Hill ES, Sunrise Valley ES, Terraset ES, Waples Mill ES, Wolftrap ES, Annandale Terrace ES, Bailey’s Upper ES, Belvedere ES, Bren Mar Park ES, Camelot ES, Chesterbrook ES, Columbia ES, Fairhill ES, Falls Church HS, Franklin Sherman ES, Freedom Hill ES, Glen Forest ES, Graham Road ES, Haycock ES, Justice HS, Kent Gardens ES, Kilmer Center, Longfellow MS, Marshall HS, Mason Crest ES, McLean HS, North Springfield ES, Parklawn ES, Pine Spring ES, Shrevewood ES, Sleepy Hollow ES, Stenwood ES, Westbriar ES, Westgate ES, Westlawn ES, Weyanoke ES, Woodburn ES, Belle View ES, Bucknell ES, Bush Hill ES, Clermont ES, Crestwood ES, Forestdale ES, Fort Hunt ES, Franconia ES, Garfield ES, Gunston ES, Hybla Valley ES, Key Center, Lane ES, Lynbrook ES Riverside ES, Rose Hill ES, Saratoga ES, Springfield Estates ES, Woodley Hills ES, Bonnie Brae ES, Bull Run ES, Cardinal Forest ES, Keene Mill ES, Kings Glen ES, Kings Park ES, Lake Braddock SS, Mountain View HS, Powell ES, Ravensworth ES, Robinson SS, Rolling Valley ES, Sangster ES, Terra Centre ES, West Springfield ES, West Springfield HS, White Oaks ES, Canterbury Wood ES, Chantilly HS, Cub Run ES, Fairfax HS, Franklin MS, Greenbriar West ES, Lees Corner ES, Little Run ES, Mantua ES, McNair ES, Oak Hill ES, Poplar Tree ES, Providence ES, Wakefield Forest ES, Westfield HS, and Woodson HS. Belle View Elementary, Bucknell Elementary, Fort Hunt Elementary, Gunston Elementary, Key Center, Riverside Elementary, Rolling Valley Elementary, Saratoga Elementary, and Woodley Hills Elementary are schools Mount Vernon Students attend.

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