While the relatively privileged circumstances that many of the students in the Falls Church School System enjoy is credited with their collective top rate performance again this year in the annual Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) report, if you talk to the school system leadership, a lot of it is also due to extraordinary teaching efforts.
Students in the small Falls Church system ranked first in the Northern Virginia region according to the annual SOL report issued Tuesday with a 92 percent pass rate for all students in reading, 86 percent for Loudoun County schools, 86 percent for Arlington, 85 percent for Fairfax and 83 percent for Stafford.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the poorest performing school systems were Manassas City at 72 percent, City of Alexandria at 71 percent and Manassas Park at 71 percent.
But the emphasis of the report, as always, is on rates of improvement, and all the above-named schools, including Falls Church’s, showed increases in their pass rates.
In reading, Falls Church improved by a single percentage point.
In math scores, Falls Church City Schools came in best in the region there, too, with a pass rate at 90 percent, equal to last year, while Arlington County was 87 percent, Loudoun County 85 percent, Stafford County 84 percent, Fairfax County 83 percent and Culpepper County 82 percent, and Alexandria was at the bottom with 69 percent.
Statewide, Falls Church was second in reading to the West Point Public Schools, a small system 45 minutes east of Richmond, and third behind West Point and Wise County Schools in math.
Max Smith of the D.C. all-news radio station WTOP, citing a Census Bureau estimate that 74.4 percent of adults 25 and over living in the City have at least a bachelor’s degree, said many Falls Church students come from backgrounds that may help them succeed. By contrast, he noted, the Census Bureau estimates that only 26 percent of adults over 25 have bachelor’s degrees in Manassas Park.
But Falls Church Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, in an interview with the News-Press yesterday, said that school policies have contributed to maintaining the high scores of students, including the introduction of personalized learning that impacts all the students equally, enabling them to read and write more, and interventions that target children with learning weaknesses to give them special assistance.
Overall about the City schools’ SOL scores, Dr. Jones said, “I am delighted. Our staff and students have worked extremely hard, and it’s paying off.”
It has involved staff, students and families, she said. “It is a community effort.”
Meanwhile, the new school year, officially beginning on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, is fast approaching and already a lot is going on.
Practicing since the first of the month, the George Mason High football team will host a scrimmage this Friday night against Brentsville, while the school’s golf team has been engaged in numerous competitions.
Construction and renovation efforts at the Mt. Daniel Elementary School were stopped cold when the Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred action on the City schools’ bid for its approval for the effort. It is due to come back to the Planning Commission on Sept. 17, and “we are continuing to do everything we can to make sure the commissioners have all the information they need and all their questions are answered in the meantime,” Dr. Jones said.
Students will find Mt. Daniel exactly the same as they left it in June when they show up next month, she added. It will actually be cleaner, she added, as some new carpet was put in to prepare for the work to begin. No change for this school year is now expected even if the Fairfax Planners give the thumbs up next month.
In less than two weeks, on Monday, Aug. 24, new teachers will be welcomed with a special orientation followed by a bus tour of the City and lunch at a local restaurant, an annual tradition.
Closer to the eve of the new school year, a convocation will be held at George Mason High on Tuesday, Sept. 1, one week before classes officially begin.