Across the country, school divisions are wrestling with the challenge of improving student achievement in all subject areas in the middle years. Middle schools have taken center stage in our efforts to improve K-12 public education nation wide. In ACPS, we have created five new smaller middle schools in a move toward a more engaging and personalized learning environment, and we will spend the next three years establishing the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme in each school. All of this forms the broad framework for more effective learning and teaching. (more…)
Archive for November, 2009
During this Thanksgiving week, I give thanks to each of you for sharing my passion about doing what’s best for kids. I am thankful for the continued support of parents and community members, the hard work and dedication of our teachers and support professionals, and the involvement of parents and guardians. Most of all, I am thankful for our amazing students who inspire me each day and make me smile.
Have a safe and joyful Thanksgiving!
Over the past twenty years, we have seen a shift in this country in the way we educate students with disabilities. The primary focus of programs for students with disabilities used to be compliance with state and federal regulations. This meant that many students were provided services in self-contained classrooms with a separate curriculum. While compliance is still important, the overarching focus has shifted nationally to an instructional model that serves all students and gives all students access to the same curriculum. Under this model, students with disabilities, regardless of the severity, are served in the same classrooms as their non-disabled peers, and provided the accommodations that allow them to access the same curriculum. This shift has resulted in enormous benefits to all students. In ACPS, we must do more to move in this direction. (more…)
These are exciting times for early childhood education not only in Alexandria, but throughout much of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The state has developed and is piloting a Star Quality Initiative or Quality Rating and Improvement System for early childhood programs. Nineteen programs in Alexandria are participating in this pilot project. ACPS is helping to oversee this project and is working closely with programs such as Head Start (which has received excellent ratings of three and four stars), the Child and Family Network Centers and other private and non-profit child care centers who receive funding through the Virginia Preschool Initiative. By participating in this rating and mentoring system, these programs demonstrate their desire to improve the quality of their centers both from the perspective of the interactions between the teachers and children as well as the positive environment that the children experience. Not only will the children benefit from the rigor of this system, but parents will be more informed as to the true quality of the early childhood program they are seeking for their children. As the programs are independently rated and as the state assigns stars based on that rating, parents will be able to select the program that best meets their expectations and needs. (more…)
When Dr. Ron Ferguson, co-chair and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, visited ACPS earlier this month, I was most inspired by his conversation with about 60 students at T.C. Williams High School. The topic was school culture, and about how students can play an active role in defining what’s “cool” in a very positive way. It was exciting to see and hear their enthusiasm as Dr. Ferguson talked about a student-initiated program called Conspiracy to Succeed. These students, like the majority of students at T.C., were eager to create a school environment where students support and encourage one another to stay focused and to succeed; however, they viewed the recent fights that have taken place at school as distraction from this dream. (more…)