main banner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fairfax County students show academic gains, Superintendent reports

According to a status report on Fairfax County Public Schools from Superintendent Jack Dale, student achievement is improving, and more students are taking advanced courses:

Here are some of the highlights from the report:
  • Projected enrollment for 2010-11 is 175,295, and the number of students from families at or below the poverty level is increasing.
  • Just over 19,000 students are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs, up slightly from last year.
  • More than 20,900 students are enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, a slight increase from last year. Despite the increase in the numbers of AP/IB tests taken last year, the percentage of students doing well on the tests has held steady.
  • FCPC received 26,273 teacher applications, and 1,227 new teachers were hired. There are 431 student teachers and interns.
  • Construction projects in the works include two new schools (the elementary school on the Lacey site in Annandale and a middle school in the South County area); additions at three schools; and renovations of seven schools, including Beech Tree and Westlawn elementary schools.
  • There has been increase in the number of high school students signing up for free and reduced-price lunches, which could be due to the AP/IB fees that take effect this year.
  • A higher percentage of students are passing the state-mandated Standards of Learning (SOL) exams at the advanced level. Approximately 50 percent of all reading and mathematics SOL tests were passed at the advanced level.
  • Only one school, Hybla Valley Elementary, failed to achieve full accreditation from the state, and that school missed in only one subject, history.
  • SOL pass rates (for grades 3-12) are 93 percent in reading in 2010. That’s the same rate as 2009 and up from 92 percent in 2008.
  • The black/white achievement gap on SOL reading tests continues to decline, from 16 percent in 2008, to 13 percent in 2009, and to 12 percent in 2010.
  • The Hispanic/white achievement gap on SOL reading tests is up slightly. It was 12 percent 2008, 10 percent in 2009, and 11 percent in 2010.
  • Passing rates for SOL math tests for grades 3-12 continue to rise, from 87 percent in 2008, to 90 percent in 2009, to 92 percent in 2010.
  • The black/white achievement gap in SOL math tests is down sharply over the past three years, from 19 to 15 to 12 percent in 2010. The Hispanic/white gap in math is also down for the past years, from 19 to 16 to 13 percent.
Dale says his priorities for attaining high levels of achievement are:

1. Closing the achievement gap among demographic groups;
2. Ensuring teachers use best practices for teaching and learning; and
3. Encouraging the formation of “professional learning communities” throughout schools and departments. “When schools take off in terms of performance, it’s because teachers are working with other teachers,” Dale said at a recent meeting of his Business and Community Advisory Council. “We need to empower teachers and give them time to work with each other.”

As FCPS begins work on a budget for 2011-12 and beyond, Dale expects a lot of discussion about the school system’s currently unfunded needs. These include the need to:
  • Implement full-day kindergarten for the 37 elementary schools that do not have it.
  • Raise salaries (There haven’t been increases for the past two years).
  • Eliminate the AP and IB testing fees.
  • Restore summer school.
  • Restore class sizes to 2008 levels.
  • Implement foreign language programs in elementary schools.


  1. "There has been increase in the number of high school students signing up for free and reduced-price lunches, which could be due to the AP/IB fees that take effect this year."

    Bull! It could be due to a number of different things like the increase in sports fees or the difficult economy or the increase in health insurance costs... This is the kind of statement, when coupled with the "Eliminate the AP and IB testing fees." bullet at the bottom that really irks me about FCPS. Let's not gin up and lie to us about things. Simply state that FCPS feels it is more important to pay for kids college in the form of AP/IB test fees than to let them play HS sports. AP/IB tests are the best deal in college education today - this is the LAST thing we need to be funding at a high school level, especially since the number of tests taken increased last year.

  2. I'm not a parent, just a taxpayer -- whose tax dollars (50% or more )go to FCPS. I have no problem with charging fees. I don't believe the taxpayers of Fairfax County have any responsibility to pay for sports programs, AP/IB testing, etc.
    That said, I agree that it requires a huge jump in logic to attribute increased free or reduced lunches to increased fees. I would hope our educators could do better

  3. The school system uses the "free and reduced lunch" (F&RL) program to establish whether or not a familty is living in poverty. A student in the F&RL program become eligible for having test fees waived. Therefore, if a student's family meets the poverty standard for income and expenses, and fees for AP/IB are barriers to a student's participation, then being accepted as eligible for F&RL also makes you eligible to particate in these demanding courses without having to pay the fee. This is actually a good news story; we want all our students, regardless of the income of their parents, to challenge themselves to achieve their full potential. All taxpayers benefit when the next generation pulls themselves out of poverty.