There was a particularly special binder at College Park Elementary school, one that fifth-grade students clamored to see each and every day at school. Its pages were made of the same paper as any other in the building, and its plastic covers bore no exceptional design or print.
Yet, each fifth-grader was keenly aware of the binder and making sure they had time to check it out.
The reason? It was all about them.
“They were inputting and tracking their own data,” said Dr. Sterling White, principal of College Park Elementary. “They recorded information such as ‘On this date, I scored a 60 percent in reading.’ So on the next date, their goal was to beat that 60 percent.”
The work didn’t just stop with the goal-setting though. Like schools across the division, College Park teachers and school staff focused on integrating subjects across the curriculum through regular collaboration. Their goal was to understand data to identify deficits—oftentimes, joined by the school division’s Department of Teaching and Learning—to determine needed small group instruction and intervention.
Principals attribute this data-focused approach as one of the reasons why Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) saw an uptick in both Standards of Learning (SOL) passing rates as well as the number of schools that will likely earn school accreditation this year.
VBCPS is projecting 94 percent — or 77 of its 82 testing schools — will earn full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation
VBCPS is projecting 94 percent — or 77 of its 82 testing schools — will earn full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation for the 2016-2017 school year. This is a five percent increase from last year. VBCPS is making this projection based on SOL passing rates, which were released today by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
“In analyzing our SOL data, we are proud to report that gains are happening across all geographic areas of our school division,” VBCPS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said in a press release. “That means that we are making sure that every student – no matter his/her economic status, race or school – is provided with the tools and resources necessary to thrive and grow academically.”
Included in these successes is College Park, which is projected to earn full accreditation for the first time in four years. The school made gains in all areas including English, science, mathematics and social studies ranging from 17-41 percentage points.
Along with its data focus, White maintains community support was just as vital to the school’s success. Monthly events were held to engage parents and families with the work going on in the classroom.
“More than 150 parents were always in attendance at our monthly math or literacy nights,” White said. “We would demonstrate to parents how students were learning and then provide an activity that they could complete at home together.”
Windsor Oaks Elementary is also projected to make full accreditation this year after the school saw increases in all four subject areas, including double-digit increases in science and history.
When asked about the secret to SOL success, Windsor Oaks Principal Dr. Sherri Archer did not pinpoint one strategy or initiative, but instead credited a number of factors that help students be successful.
To start, she applauded her staff, who is dedicated to seeing students excel.
That includes people like fifth-grade teacher, Dolores Marinello, who Archer says “lives and breathes history.” Marinello keeps students engaged in her classroom through storytelling, innovative lessons and out-of-school field trips during the school year. During summertime, she is just as active, letting parents know of free historical tours for children occurring throughout Hampton Roads.
Archer said that is one just one example of the school’s focus to create learning opportunities that are tangible for students. For instance, Windsor Oaks fifth-graders rotate through weekly science labs designed to reinforce science objectives.
“It’s about the experience,” Archer said. “We want them to learn it, but we also want (them) to experience it and then know how to use information to build on other things.”
In order to make those experiences happen, though, it all comes down to relationships. Principal Tim Sullivan will see his school, Williams Elementary, earn full accreditation this year for the first time in five years. This was possible due to his students’ double-digit increases in science.
For Sullivan, it all comes down to the dedication and hard work of his staff. Not only is relationship-building key to the culture of his school, Williams’s teachers also work tirelessly together to map out the best course of action for each child. Williams said it’s a gradual process but one that staff members know is important because it’s about “giving (students) every tool we can.”
“We know every one of our students,” he said. “I would also invite anyone to see our collaborations because (our staff) is so good; they are so professional.”
To view the all of the SOL pass rates for the division, visit the VDOE’s webpage. Also, note that the VDOE is scheduled to release its state accreditation ratings Sept. 14.