As Falls Church’s vice mayor, whose day job is the Falls Church public schools outreach director, said in an interview Monday, when it comes to Standards of Learning testing assessments, outcomes represent “a metric but not a goal.”
That said, the Falls Church City Public Schools’ results announced last week were top or among the very top in the state. For the first time in four years, the City schools reached a 90 percent pass rate or better in SOL assessments across all content areas, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
Based on data released last week, FCCPS students were tops in all Virginia in both Writing and History and Social Sciences, tied for third in Reading and Science, and tied for sixth in Math.
The news precedes the moves, now in earnest, toward the beginning of the new school year, marked this time by the fact that construction of the new George Mason High School, with some deep digs onto former sports fields at the campus site is well along already. The new school is going up adjacent the existing high school buildings and is scheduled for completion by the end of next year.
With some fall sports team practices already underway, the first phase of the new year began with the orientation of 22 new teachers this week, commencing with a lunch at the City’s popular Liberty Barbecue on Monday.
Next Tuesday, the entire system’s teacher and staff population will be on the job, with an annual convocation assembly at the high school set for Tuesday morning. There, Superintendent Peter Noonan will deliver the keynote, the high school music department will provide entertainment and teachers and staff reaching milestones in their careers in Falls Church will be honored.
Classes are set to commence on Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day (they begin next Monday in Fairfax County).
William Bates, the system’s new chief academic officer, told the News-Press at the new teacher luncheon this week that everything is being readied for a smooth start to the new school year.
He said that while the system is celebrating the outstanding SOL scores announced last week, that include the fact the system has a 100 percent graduation rate, “there is still work to do to close some gaps.”
The school system’s three main goals, he said, are to increase student participation in International Baccalaureate programs now available at all grade levels, to do more to create a caring community, and to close achievement gaps.
He said the emphasis on a “caring community” is aimed at “educating the whole child,” and “increasing engagement by going above and beyond, to be more invested in the learning process, and giving back to the schools and community.”
Bates, originally from western Pennsylvania, comes to Falls Church, on the job here as of Aug. 1, from the Baltimore County Public Schools, and from Fairfax County public schools prior to that.
Responding to the SOL score results posted last week, Superintendent Noonan said, “We are very proud of the work of our students and teachers. This is evidence that we are finding ways to meet the needs of the vast majority of the students we serve.”
He added that, “While our achievements in the aggregate are excellent, we have a way to go to ensure true equity for all of our students. We look forward to continuing our work on behalf of all students.”
Overall FCCPS SOL results pass rates for the 2018-2019 school year are: History and Social Sciences 95 percent – No. 1 (in Virginia); Writing 90 percent – No. 1; Reading 91 percent – tied for No. 3; Science 91 percent, tied for No. 3; Math 91 percent – tied for No. 6.
“We are pleased with these numbers, but especially so in the substantial growth shown by all of our subgroups in the areas of math and science,” added Jeanne Seabridge, director of Teaching, Learning, and Achievement for the division. “The results are also helpful in pointing out areas in need of improvement and we will continue to sharpen our focus on closing all gaps.”
According to the state Department of Education, the results reflect changes in student test-taking patterns last year caused by a revision to the commonwealth’s diploma and school accountability standards and the introduction of new mathematics tests in all grade levels.
At the statewide levels the overall pass rates in the five tested content areas are: History and Social Sciences – 80 percent, Writing – 76 percent, Reading – 78 percent, Science – 81 percent, Math – 82 percent.