All posts by Beth Cheuk

Flyer for 2nd Community Forum on Equity November 27 at CHS at 7:30. Bus service available. See post for pdf of bus schedules and more details.

Equity Forums and Updates

 

From October 2018-March 2019, Charlottesville City Schools hosted a series of community forums to receive feedback on our shared goals for equity. This page offers updates and resources related to these forums and recent equity initiatives. For an overview of current programs and commitments that promote equity in our schools, visit our main equity page.

Questions or comments? Contact Beth Cheuk or Denise Johnson. See contact information at bottom of page.

Equity Update, May 2019: Priorities for 19-20

At the School Board annual retreat on May 31, 2019, Beth Cheuk and Denise Johnson discussed the feedback heard so far and the top ideas that were emerging as priorities for the upcoming school year.

The four recommended priorities are:

  1. Supported/Supportive Staff
    This includes diversifying our staff and equipping our educators to succeed and help all students succeed.
  2. Diverse, Inclusive, and Rigorous Learning Experiences
    Let’s embrace our diversity — in classrooms’ student composition and in richly varied and challenging learning activities.
  3. Growing Relationships
    As we help our staff and students feel connected, supported, and safe, we will learn from one another for our mutual gain.
  4. Equity Foundations
    We want to be systematic and proactive as we make positive change. Let’s follow — and establish — best practices.

To see the slides from this presentation and learn more about how these ideas were generated and what specific changes or commitments they represent, click here.

Equity Update, April 2019

At the April 11 School Board meeting, Dr. Atkins and Beth Cheuk, joined by Charlene Green of the City of Charlottesville’s Office of Human Rights, presented an Equity Update.

Equity Committee Update, March 2019

On February 27, Dr. Atkins convened the first meeting of the equity committee. The committee (see list below) is comprised of teachers, staff, parents, School Board members, the Mayor, City employees, and community partners — with members often wearing multiple “hats” of “parent and employee” or “community partner and alumna.”  City of Charlottesville Youth Opportunity Coordinator Daniel Fairley co-led the Charlottesville Youth Council’s facilitation of student feedback from CHS and Buford; he along with CHS Principal Dr. Eric Irizarry agreed to serve as a liaisons to the Charlottesville Youth Council and other student groups so that student voice would also be represented.

This advisory committee will help the schools review feedback and determine priorities to help shape the foundational underpinning and the execution of work toward equity in the schools. This committee works alongside others — staff, School Board, other advisory committees, PTOs, etc. — as one of many avenues for accomplishing these goals. We are not trying to make a new “equity” program; instead, we need to assure that equity is the lens through which we view all programs.

Comprised of 33 people, the committee is broken into four work teams:

  1. Institutional structures: with possible areas of focus such as unleveling classes, school-to-school alignment, program or hiring practices (staff contacts: Eric Irizarry/Jim Henderson)
    1. Pam Brown
    2. Sylvia Elder
    3. Dr. Bernard Hairston
    4. Joyce Ivory
    5. Toni Kim
    6. John Kronstain
  2. Instructional changes & professional learning (staff contacts: Paula Culver-Dickinson/Patrick Farrell)
    1. School Board member James Bryant
    2. Christine Esposito
    3. Daniel Fairley
    4. Dr. Daphne Keiser
    5. Michelle Packer
    6. Rachel Rasnake
    7. Dr. Joseph Williams
  3. Family communication/community engagement and efficacy (staff contacts: Beth Cheuk/Velvet Coleman)
    1. Pastor Lehman Bates
    2. Pat Cuomo
    3. Charlene Green
    4. Sgt. Robert Haney
    5. Eric Johnson
    6. Jessica Taylor
  4. Policy: equity policy, definitions, equity audit/checklists, metrics (staff contacts: Dr. Rosa Atkins/Dr. Kendra King)  
    1. Melvin Grady
    2. Dr. Adam Hastings
    3. Denise Johnson
    4. School Board member Lisa Larson-Torres
    5. Becka Saxon
    6. Mayor Nikuyah Walker

Among their first responsibilities, work groups have been asked to review the Community Priorities for Equity (see next section of this page) as a starting point for determining initial recommendations within their focus areas.

Final Results Regarding Community Priorities for Equity, March 2019

As described below, we conducted a series of 15+ school-based and community events (as well as online opportunities) for staff, students, parents, and community members to share their ideas. In addition to responding to the 32 ideas gleaned from our initial community feedback, community members have continued to share their ideas and feedback through the open-ended response portion of the survey, through contacting staff and School Board members, through meetings, and more.  The Charlottesville Youth Council also compiled a list of top themes gathered from the student focus groups they facilitated at CHS and Buford; they met with Dr. Atkins in March to discuss these ideas. These ideas along with earlier feedback submitted by the CHS Black Student Union in October is reflected either in the original 32 ideas or in a list of additional ideas and commentary in the attached document (below). Finally, on March 22, members of the Black Student Union and the Latinx Student Union held a school walk-out to raise awareness for their revised list of strategies for promoting equity.

[As of  March 23:] While the School Board and staff have not had time to formally respond to this revised list yet, Board Chair Jennifer McKeever notes, “When I review the list that Black Student Union created, I see many areas in which our schools are actively engaged. Their ideas are very complementary to the work we’ve been doing in our schools. This includes greater security (work begun this week); making changes to the CHS African-American history class to encourage enrollment (included in the Program of Study for 2019-20); and further diversifying classes so that all students learn local and Black history (we are presently one of six school divisions in Virginia to participate in a grant-funded project to embrace ‘hard history’ through a project with Virginia Humanities and community partners.)” As the school division posted on Twitter, “We’re glad to hear you and work with you.” [Update: at their April 11 School Board Meeting, Dr. Atkins and the School Board posted a response to the BSU as part of an Equity Committee Update.]

  •  Community Priorities for Equity (This document includes a spreadsheet that summarizes the community feedback that we have heard so far. The data on the spreadsheet is accurate through 3/1/19; the “additional ideas” section is largely up to date and includes the Black Student Union’s revised list.)

Action Steps, February 2019

In the February News and Highlights, Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins offered an update to the community about recent efforts to promote equity. Click here to see the newsletter.

Community-Based Forums, December 2018-March 2019

As we continue to gather community input, we have been visiting with city residents in community centers and churches. We held a second gathering for teacher/staff input. We also partnered with the Charlottesville Youth Council to host student-led classroom discussions and gather feedback from students at CHS and Buford. Special thanks to parishioners at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church,  Ebenezer Baptist Church, Habitat for Humanity families, CHS students, and others for sharing your input with us. Here is a snapshot of some of these visits.

Second Community Forum at CHS, November 27, 2018

Our objective for the second forum was to reflect back what we’ve been hearing from the community so far. Our staff and School Board have been seeking community input through events, online tools, emails, and face-to-face conversations. We asked forum participants to respond to a list of 32 main ideas and vote on their “top 10.”

After community members had a chance to review and vote on their top 10 ideas, our moderator, City of Charlottesville Office of Human Rights Manager Charlene Green, presented the results and facilitated a time of questions and comments. The evening continued with remarks about next steps moving forward from Charlottesville City Schools Coordinator of Community Affairs and Development Beth Cheuk, Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins, and School Board Chair Juandiego Wade. Finally, the forum concluded with commentary from each member of the School Board.

  • A live stream of the evening’s presentations can be found here. 
  • Want to share your voice? Visit www.publicinput.com/3575 to vote on your own top 10 or add your own thoughts and comments.
  • Results from the online survey are visible to participants. Results from the posters at the event on November 27 may be seen below. In addition, staff members have been visiting community centers, congregations, and CHS to see additional perspectives. These votes are being assembled and will be presented once the process is final.

Results from Equity Forum Statement Stations

Participants were asked to visit 4 statement stations and vote on their top 10 main ideas using stickers. A fifth station was available to add missing or new ideas.

Results from Second Forum – “Top 10” picks from Statement Stations

  1. Hire and support teachers of color
  2. Re-examine the Quest (gifted) program
  3. Focus on systemic barriers
  4. Continue or expand preschool
  5. Equip teachers to meet the needs of all students
  6. Promote student diversity within classrooms
  7. Support/retain effective teachers and principals
  8. Keep diversifying libraries/curriculum/activities
  9. Ensure budget prioritizes equity
  10. Explore outside factors that impact schools

Next Steps (from December 2018 community newsletter)

From our School Board and Superintendent (see longer message here):

In addition to listening, we are also acting. We are seeking volunteers and nominations for a committee on equity representing a broad coalition of school and community stakeholders. We are doing internal reviews of our data, programs, and efforts. We are mapping resources of sister school divisions and model equity programs so that we can learn from others. The School Board is drafting an equity policy that will guide our practices and lay a foundation for parity.

In short, we continue to listen. We are taking first steps to review and revise our past efforts and plan future action. We are guided by our confidence that your values are our values and that together, we want to seize this moment to make a difference for our community.

First Community Forum at CHS, October 23, 2018

On October 23, nearly 500 community members came together at Charlottesville High School for our first Community Forum on Equity.  Prior to the meeting, parents were asked to complete a brief pre-survey about their and their students’ experiences at CHS. (See results here.)  School representatives, including Superintendent Rosa Atkins, addressed the group and discussed the results of the survey, noting that when the results were filtered by race, the priorities for discussion were slightly different, and the overall “satisfaction” rates were higher for white students/families than for students/families of color.

Participants then split into small moderated groups to discuss the top five areas of concern for the African-American survey-takers.  Click here to review comments from the first Community Forum or contribute new ones. You can also find information concerning the main topics discussed.

The school division offered a separate forum for teachers and staff and gathered feedback on the same five topics.

Staff members and volunteers then reviewed the comments captured from the public and staff forums, developing a list of 32 action items that were commonly suggested. These 32 action items then became the basis of the next round of discussion.

Other Resources

Related media coverage

Contact:

Denise Johnson
Supervisor of Equity and Inclusion
johnsod2@charlottesvilleschools.org

Beth Cheuk
Coordinator of Community Affairs and Development
cheukb1@charlottesvilleschools.org or 434-245-2962

 

“Concert for Charlottesville” Video Earns National Awards


A music video collaboration by musicians from Charlottesville High School and Metro Nashville public schools has earned 2018 Advocacy in Action Awards from the music education non-profit organization, Music for All.

The musical remake of Bebe and CeCe Winans’ song, “Right Now (We Need One Another),” was recorded by Charlottesville High School and Metro Nashville Public Schools musicians last year in response to the events of August 11-12 in Charlottesville.

The music video features 50 CHS orchestra students and 30 members of the CHS choir, along with Nashville’s Fab 5, a group of student singers that attend different schools at MNPS.

“It was remarkable that in such a short amount of time, we were able to join with the folks from Nashville to create a new song of hope for the future,” said CHS Choir Teacher Will Cooke.

Following the two-day collaboration, the music video was featured among a long line-up of musical performers including Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, and Ariana Grande at the Dave Matthew’s Band Concert for Charlottesville last September.

“To see all of us up on the jumbotron at the Dave Matthews concert was truly a thrill,” said CHS Orchestra Teacher Laura Thomas. “I get goose bumps every time I think about it.  It was our students singing and playing and trying to promote a positive message.”

The two groups reconnected in the spring in Nashville at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.  The CHS and Fab 5 singers recorded a second musical tribute in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Read more about it and see the music video “Shine” here.

According to James P. Stephens, Jr., Director of Advocacy and Educational Resources for Music for All, the Advocacy in Action Awards recognize “the amazing advocacy work that is being done in scholastic music programs across the country.” The group’s mission is “to create, provide and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all.”

This video is being recognized as a winner in three subcategories of Community Engagement:

    • Outstanding Community Engagement Video
    • Outstanding Community Event
    • Outstanding Community Service Project

Related Links

Students visit Fralin Art Museum at UVA.

Highlights and News November 2018

A Word from Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins
Dr. Rosa Atkins

Dear families –

As we look ahead to our second Community Forum on Equity on November 27 at 7:30 p.m. at CHS, I wanted to give you a few updates.

Thanks to all of you who came to our first forum in October. With more than 400 community members, employees, and students present, along with many following along on Facebook, we were able to hear valuable feedback on issues of equity and achievement in our schools. We also gathered hundreds of responses from our online surveys and have made that data available to you at www.charlottesvilleschools.org/NYT. You can read through and add your voice to the conversation.

While we move forward to identify and implement tangible ways to help all of our students excel, we will continue to celebrate signs of the achievement and growth we see in our students, from our elementary schools’ extended-day literacy program to CHS students using their photography skills to tell their peers’ global stories in a community exhibition.

Dr. Rosa S. Atkins,
Superintendent

Venable teacher reading to students in EBL after school program.

Venable Elementary teacher Karen Minor reads to first grade children during Extended Bridges to Learning, an after-school literacy program that provides small group instruction to students in grades K-5. EBL is funded in part by a Virginia Department of Education grant. Read more about EBL here.

NEW PILOT PROGRAM AT WALKER EMPOWERS STUDENTS’ DECISION-MAKING
Super-Why and First Lady at Greenbrier Using a $6,000 grant from CFA Institute,Walker Upper Elementary School students are deciding how to spend the funds on school improvements. The new program employs a process known as participatory budgeting. The unique curriculum leads all sixth graders through a semester-long process that includes these steps: Discover, Dream, Design, Decide, and Do. We can’t wait to see what they decide to do! Read more about the program here.

STRING OF MUSICIANS TEACH, PERFORM, AND INSPIRE
Stock photo of violinist Ray ChenStudents of all ages interacted with an impressive lineup of musicians this fall. Third-graders attended the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival Children’s Concert and fourth-graders visited UVA to hear the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia perform “Jazzing Up the Orchestra” with the Free Bridge Quintet. Contemporary cellist BJ Griffin led three days of workshops at Buford, Walker, and CHS to teach students about his unique style that combines classical composition and hip hop. Ray Chen, acclaimed violinist who has played in concert halls around the world, performed for CHS students courtesy of Tuesday Evening Concert Series. And, most recently, students from across the division visited The Paramount Theater to see the touring strings duo, Black Violin.Johnson teacher Lindsay Wayland posted a video from the concert and commented, “Best. Field trip. Ever.”

DRAFT SCHOOL CALENDAR FOR 2019-20 POSTED FOR FEEDBACK
French exchange students participate in Conversation Cafe at CHS.The Charlottesville-Albemarle School Calendar Committee has created a draft calendar for the 2019-20 school year. We would like your feedback. Please review the draft calendar and complete a brief survey by November 16.

SCHOOL-WIDE MORNING MEETINGS PROMOTE POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURE
Teacher sings on stage at BME school-wide morning meeting.Elementary schools across the division are using monthly school-wide morning meetings to build school tradition, pride,and a sense of belonging for students.“These gatherings help us sustain a strong school culture and climate across all grade levels,” says Burnley-Moran Principal Dr. Elizabeth Korab. Read more about these meetings here. 

2018 FALL PHOTO GALLERY – HIGHLIGHTS THAT MAKE US SMILE
Super-Why and First Lady at GreenbrierWhile we have begun a challenging conversation this fall, there is also much to celebrate in our schools. From fine arts to fun runs to fall festivals, here is a look back at some of the highlights from the last month. A few other fun facts? From CHS alone, we have the band’s 1st-place finish in regionals, a top-6 state finish for Theatre CHS, and football players Sabias Folley and Isaiah Washington earning player-of-the-week honors.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT-A-GLANCE
illustration of calendar 11/13 Buford Orchestra Concert
11/21 Thanksgiving Break begins – no school until 11/26
11/27 Second Community Forum on Equity, CHS, 7:30 p.m.
11/28 CHS Orchestra Concert
11/29 CHS Band Concert
12/5 Walker/Buford Chorus Winter Concert
12/6 School Board Meeting, 5pm CHS Media Center
12/6-12/8 TheatreCHS presents “Heathers”

More Looks at Cville Schools

Students visit Fralin Museum of Art at UVA

Walker Upper Elementary students discuss a painting by American artist Rozeal with a museum docent at the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. This fall, all students in grades 3-8 are participating in Writer’s Eye, an education program sponsored by the Fralin that encourages kids to use art as inspiration for writing prose and poetry. Photo Credit: Coe Sweet Photography.

Crossing guard Miss Ruth hugs a Clark student

Known for her compassion and care, Clark School crossing guard Ruth Hill keeps children and families safe as they travel to and from school. “I love each of these children as if they were my own,” said Hill. Read more here.

CHS Teacher Matt Shields with father

When he is not teaching physics and engineering or taking BACON Club students to MIT for global robotics competitions, CHS teacher Matt Shields spends his time doing other things like… donating a kidney to his father! Learn more here. Photo Credit: Sarah Cramer Shields

Find more info and events on on our website, social media, or our Google calendars!

Find us on the web at charlottesvilleschools.org

 

Staff Forum

Thanks for your participation today. We value your input!

Resources:

Discussion Questions/Note-Taking Google Doc

 

Letters in Response to the October 2018 Article in The New York Times/ProPublica

To learn more about the article and find additional information about the issues it raises, see our “Response” page at charlottesvilleschools.org/NYT. To find letters of response from the superintendent and School Board, read on.

Dr. Rosa Atkins
Dr. Rosa Atkins

From Dr. Rosa Atkins, Superintendent

Dear Community Members,

A recent New York Times article explored the achievement gap at Charlottesville City Schools, with the underlying theme that we are not making progress toward our shared goal of serving all students well. Specifically, the article focuses on areas where we have not closed the black/white achievement gap and features several students and families who describe ways in which our schools have not been fully supportive of them or other black students and families.

While the article highlights areas that still need work, we believe it is important to provide balance to this story. For example, we see tremendous growth in areas such as rising graduation rates (a 25 percentage point gain for our black students since 2006) and shrinking achievement gaps on nationally normed tests. We’ve also seen  suspension rates plummet (down 83 percent in a decade) as we have instituted a nationally recognized emphasis on mental health, positive supports, and social-emotional well-being. Our efforts to achieve equity infuse every area of our work, and we are proud of our teachers and staff members and the ways they work for and with our students.

Let me be clear that we are not satisfied with the status quo….

To read full letter, click here.

…in fact, all of us work at Charlottesville City Schools because we want to see true equity. We are committed to helping all our students excel, and we intentionally seek expertise, training, partnerships, and new practices that will promote equity. We also know that our country’s schools alone cannot solve a societal plague that has been in place 400 years and which is reinforced by growing wage gaps, our affordable housing shortage, and more. And let us remember that success is not accurately portrayed in either a low SOL score or a high graduation rate. Reality is more complicated than data.

As we respond to the article, we face several choices. We can complain about the portrayal. We can dispute ideas and characterizations that seem wrong or incomplete. We can defend ourselves by pointing out the various programs and practices that are in place to address these concerns. We can recite other statistics that paint a brighter – but still not equitable – portrait of our current status.

But I believe our primary response should be to listen and learn from the central truth of this article: We have not made consistent or satisfactory progress for all our students. Through this article and through a beautiful presentation by the CHS Black Student Union at our October School Board meeting, we can learn from the words and experiences of our brave students and families who are advocating for their peers and the students who will follow them through our schools. We need to learn why our significant efforts to promote equity have so far not yielded all the fruit that we hope for.

Therefore, our first action  will be engagement and outreach, beginning with a community forum on October 23, at 7 p.m. at CHS. As we speak, we will describe how we have been approaching this issue. As we listen, we will seek to learn why our programs and efforts have not connected with more of our students and families. As we learn, we will identify resources and strategies that will enable us to adjust our programs, practices, culture, and commitments. As we speak, listen and learn, we will work to build mutual trust among each other and between ourselves and our community of students, families, and advocates.

Why is equity so important? Some of us will speak of righting wrongs. Some of us will speak of the beauty and value of diversity. As a black woman and a human, I am invested in justice and I am inspired by diversity. I also focus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s reminder that we are all interrelated and “tied in a single garment of destiny.” The future health and prosperity of Charlottesville depends on all of the members of our community. I’m struck by the words that Australian artist Lilla Watson expressed on behalf of the Aboriginal community: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Charlottesville, let us work together.

Dr. Rosa S. Atkins
Superintendent

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Response from Juan Wade (chair) and the Charlottesville City Schools Board

The School Board would like to affirm the sentiments of Dr. Atkins’ letter. Like the teachers, administrators, and staff of Charlottesville City Schools, we serve on the School Board because we want to advocate for all students. These issues have been at the forefront of our discussions and actions. These persistent disparities are what prompted us to run and serve. Specifically, we would like to say to our community…

To read full letter, click here.

  • We are proud of our students, and want to help them achieve even more.
  • We are appreciative of our teachers and staff members, and we want to support them by creating policies and practices that allow them to be even more effective.
  • We are mindful of our school families and community members who bring varying perspectives and experiences. We want to work more closely with you to move our schools and community forward.

We are looking forward to Tuesday’s Community Forum on Equity. As we listen to our community, we will learn more and build on our current strengths and our shared commitment for equity in Charlottesville. We acknowledge that much work lies in front of us, and we are committed to this work.

Juan Wade, chair; Sherry Kraft, vice-chair; James Bryant; Lisa Larson-Torres; Amy Laufer; Jennifer McKeever; and Leah Puryear.

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A Letter from The Principal about School Culture

Illustration of young teens holding a sign saying "positive school culture"

Dear Buford Families,

At Buford, we are actively working to create an inclusive environment that provides for the physical and emotional safety of all of our students.

Some of the immediate actions we have taken include:

  • Increasing supervision in the hallways and during transition.
  • Mobilizing groups for students who need skills in conflict resolution and social-emotional awareness.
  • Having direct conversations with students about how we should treat one another including a no-tolerance policy for bullying.
  • Beginning discussions with student on how to intervene and how to report.
  • Instituting a homeroom in the mornings to provide students a calmer, less chaotic start to the day,.
  • Continuing the “Peace Squad” club (originated for fifth- and sixth-graders at Walker School) so students can continue to learn the skills of being an “upstander” and can continue to promote the trademark message, “Kindness is cool.
  • Training for staff with a certified trainer has also been scheduled for 11/7.
  • Announcing the creation of a committee to address school culture. To volunteer, see details, below.

While this work will be ongoing, several events held during the week of 10/22-26 have directly addressed this issue.

  • Monday, 10/22 – Buford United Student Assembly, which reiterated school expectations and the message of kindness and inclusion.
  • Wednesday, 10/24 – Unity Day celebration, which spread the message of kindness, inclusion, and unity.
  • Thursday, 10/25 – Presentations from Liz Ianelli, a psychotherapist and clinical industry expert on bullying, and Susan Sutton, a nationally recognized school counselor and cyberbullying consultant, followed by a Q&A with Mrs. Carter.
  • Friday, 10/26 – Susan Sutton’s student presentation on cyberbullying.

The emotional and physical safety of our kids is deeply important to me not only as a principal, but also as a parent. I look forward to working with all of our families as we continue to shape and mold Buford Middle School into the school we want it to be for all of our students.

Mrs. Stephanie Carter
Principal

In addition to the above events and others that are planned for the 2nd quarter, we are seeking parent volunteers to serve on a committee to address school culture. Our school needs your voice! If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact me via email at carters2@charlottesvilleschools.org or by phone at 434-245-2411.

Floyer for Equity Forum to be held at CHS on 10/23 at 7pm.

Response to The New York Times/ProPublica Article

Sea of Hands stock photography photoOn October 16, 2018,  ProPublica and The New York Times published an article about educational disparities among white and black students in Charlottesville City Schools. To learn more about our response to the article and to further explore the issues raised by the article, see below.

Links of Interest:

A Deeper Dive on Specific Topics Addressed in or Related to the Article

Achievement Gap

In 2016 Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education first published a national data set of K-12 standardized test scores. One conclusion of the review suggests that while the achievement gap is an enduring national problem, it is acutely apparent in many college towns. And like school divisions in Berkeley, Chapel Hill, and Ann Arbor, we have been vigorously working to implement best practices and innovate new solutions. Like those other school divisions, we have seen progress but still have goals to accomplish. For an overview of our efforts, please visit charlottesvilleschoools.org/equity.

Among other programs and efforts, it describes our sometimes pioneering work in areas such as:

  • designing “honors-option” classes in English and other high school subjects, which has led to a significant increase in honors and advanced class enrollment, particularly among African-American students. In these honors-option classes, students elect assignments and readings that will lead to either standard or honors-level credit. Based on the success of this strategy, CHS continues to expand these options.
  • developing a iSTEM program to reach all our students (even in the elementary schools) so that we can teach design thinking, build coding skills, demystify STEM skills, and build bridges to our internationally acclaimed middle- and high-school engineering programs.
  • creating a culture of trauma sensitivity, social-emotional learning, and positive climate that is foundational to academic and personal growth. Our pilot of elementary SEAL (social emotional and academic learning) classrooms (at Greenbrier and Clark Elementary Schools) is a unique offering that is already generating findings and best practices applicable in all our classrooms. Our establishment of two key programs (Positive Behavior and Supports and Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports) gained state acclaim for its emphasis on mental health; the program was featured as a case study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Stanford researchers discuss the “complex relationships between schooling and non-schooling factors that might affect achievement gaps.”  For further information, see their article, The Geography of Racial/Ethnic Test Score Gaps.

Advanced Course Enrollment/Course Selection

We are not yet where we want to be in seeing diverse enrollment in advanced classes, AP classes, and Dual Enrollment classes. However, we have seen gains in honors, dual enrollment, and AP enrollment from 2015-16 to 2017-18 for our African-American students, with black students’ participation in honors classes up 29 percent (even excluding enrollment in honors-option classes). We attribute this trend to a number of factors, including our locally-developed strategy of honors-option classes and our strong AVID program (which prepares students for college success).

In addition, CHS has redesigned its process for teachers making course recommendations; the new process gives students greater agency in goal-setting so that the student and teacher can work together to prepare for success in the next year’s chosen courses.

2004 Audit by Phi Delta Kappa

An audit of Charlottesville Schools’ efforts to promote racial parity was commissioned in 2004 during a time of tremendous turmoil at Charlottesville City Schools. When Dr. Atkins joined the district in 2006, she became our ninth superintendent (or interim superintendent) in thirteen years. In 2004-5 there was a particularly divisive 10-month period in which a new superintendent came and left, leaving a wake of uncertainty and polarization.

In the midst of this turmoil, the 2004 audit was completed but did not receive the support or buy-in of the school community. In fact, the audit itself became a symbol of this divisiveness.

Because of its unpopularity, the audit was not revived when Dr. Atkins joined the schools two years later, but the ideas of the audit and its commitment to equity have appeared in Charlottesville City Schools’ strategic plans and initiatives. Some of these initiatives include a major shift toward data-driven decision-making, our award-winning use of instructional technology, reorganization of central office staff to better support school staff, and the creation and annual review of our curricular Guides to Pacing and Standards that provide pacing, standards, and resources.

Elementary School Zones

All of our elementary schools are diverse and have a significant number of students who are economically disadvantaged. At Venable Elementary, for instance, students of color make up 41 percent of the enrollment, and students who are economically disadvantaged, 39 percent.

Having said that, our elementary schools do not, and have not ever, featured an equal distribution of income levels and racial/ethnic groups. Generally speaking, Greenbrier, Burnley-Moran, and Venable have a higher percentage of white and higher-income students than Clark, Jackson-Via, and Johnson. This is reflective of our city’s neighborhoods.

Even so, last winter, as part of our planning meetings and community forums on our growing resident enrollment, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Kim Powell told media, City Council members, School Board Members, and community members that “Rezoning the elementary schools is in our future.” The process of how and when to rezone is dependent on which facilities solution our community elects.

It should be noted that professional planners and individual Charlottesville residents have concluded over the years that this rezoning will not be simple; “solving” the balance at one school worsens the balance at another. As with all issues, what we see in the schools is a reflection of our community. We hope that this work will be complemented by the City of
Charlottesville’s recent and current work on affordable housing and other equity issues that impact our City neighborhoods.

Extending the Bridges to Literacy (as compared to QUEST gifted instruction)

In Charlottesville City Schools, the primary supports for students who need extra assistance are offered during the school day in ways that mirror the structure of the gifted program.  In addition, our elementary schools offer a voluntary after-school program called Extending the Bridges to Literacy program. To learn more, read on.

Extending the Bridges to Literacy (EBL) is in the third year of a pilot supported by state grant funding. The point of the grant is to prompt schools’ innovation in extending the learning day for at-risk students (either by adding school days or after-school hours). It’s difficult to compare an after-school pilot to established, in-school programs such as the QUEST program or the supports led by our reading specialists. Both the reading specialists and the gifted teachers follow a similar collaborative model for working with classroom teachers to identify the students who would (at that moment) benefit from their push-in and pull-out services. The goal of the EBL after-school program is to provide voluntary extra learning time for students who might benefit from it, and its chief strategy is to build motivation and confidence by capitalizing on students’ own interests with individualized reading suggestions. As for resources, the EBL program has ample classroom space, specifically trained teachers, and a very low 1:6 teacher-student ratio.

Gifted Education (QUEST)

We would like to state the obvious: that giftedness is distributed equally among all groups, and when we, like other school divisions, fail to identify and nurture all expressions of giftedness, it is a loss to our entire community.

No identification process will ever be perfect, so aside from students who are identified for gifted services, a pool of high-potential students from traditionally underserved groups also receives QUEST services. In addition, in recent years, pull-out services are only part of our efforts; the program relies on a model of collaboration between the QUEST teacher and classroom teachers. Our gifted teachers also do push-in instruction with small groups and the whole class so that all Charlottesville City Schools students benefit from access to the QUEST teachers and the instructional strategies that they offer.

As for the identification process itself, referrals and identification for the program are continuous; the division uses multiple criteria and a variety of screening methods to facilitate equitable consideration of students. The VA Department of Education’s 2017 report “Increasing Diversity in Gifted Education Programs in Virginia” references several of our practices because they recognized the innovative and inclusive intent of our processes. Even so, until our QUEST program reflects the full range of giftedness in our community, we will continue to seek out and create new solutions and approaches.

For questions about our after-school Extending the Bridges to Literacy program (which is not a parallel program to QUEST), see above.

Graduation Rates; Standard vs. Advanced Diploma

Philosophically, CHS and Charlottesville City Schools have a goal of opening doors for students and pushing students to do their best, set and attain goals, and prepare for success in their adult lives.

Our African-American graduation completion index has risen 12 points since 2011 — and compared with our low point in 2006, it has risen 25 points! Graduation is a far more important marker for future educational and employment opportunities than diploma type, and we are proud of all our students’ accomplishments.

Our African-American students’ rates of attainment of the two types of diplomas track much more strongly with their black peers across Virginia than with their white peers at CHS. We want to empower our students to set their own path, and we want to support them in their goals. When there are barriers that prevent our students’ success, we advocate for them by seeking legislative solutions (such as the SOL testing flexibility we gained in Virginia for English language learners) or by developing programs to help students attain their goals. For instance, one commonly cited barrier to attainment of the advanced diploma is the world language requirement. At the request of students and families, we have worked to offer American Sign Language as an offering, and on a broader scale, we developed a much-copied elementary Spanish program to familiarize all of our students with a world language. Where we identify barriers, we want to work with our community to identify solutions.

Hiring/Supporting Teachers of Color

African American Teaching Fellows logoAt Charlottesville City Schools, we actively recruit minority teachers and staff to better reflect our diverse student body. For example, we partner with the  University of Virginia’s African American Teaching Fellows program and recruit at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

Among our teaching staff, 16 percent are presently people of color (with 11 percent being African American). Among our entire staff, 25 percent are presently people of color (with 22 percent being African American).

The diversity of our teaching staff lags slightly below the metro area’s demographics:

Graph showing Cville area population vs Cville Schools teachers. Call 245-2962 for information.

When all Charlottesville Schools employees are considered, our staff is slightly more diverse than the Charlottesville metro area.Graph showing Cville area population vs all Cville Schools employees.. Call 245-2962 with questions.

Our staff — and shown here, our teachers — do not mirror the diversity of our student population, a much more challenging goal given that most of our applicants and employees live within the metro area:Graphic showing ethnic demographics of Cville Schools teachers vs those for Cville Schools students. For info, please call 245-2962

Reading Instruction

The state’s Standards of Learning tests are an easy way to get a point-in-time snapshot of whether a a student met a specific threshold, but these tests are criticized for their frequent changes to content and format and their inability to measure a student’s growth.

Charlottesville City Schools has experimented with several growth measurement tools in the past years and starting in the 2018 year, we are using the nationally normed MAP test in grades 2-8. This data will help us identify individual and group needs and customize supports. It will also give us a better picture of our students’ growth and abilities relative to schools across the country. MAP data suggests that our students are growing  and that over time, a greater percentage of our students  (in all racial/ethnic categories) are demonstrating reading proficiency.

What are our other commitments for reading instruction in recent and current years?

Updates for this year’s literacy initiatives include:

  • robust data walls to track growth and needs so that instruction and interventions with reading specialists and others can be more timely and effective;
  • better alignment with SPED and other programs and increased training/progress monitoring requirements;
  • revised/new curriculum for Benchmark Literacy and Calkins Units of Study in Writing;
  • professional learning for reading specialists (who in turn lead school-based literacy work) that specifically addresses the achievement gap.

We offer an array of in-school strategies and supports for students who need them. In addition, we are in year three of a state-funded pilot of “Extending the Bridges to Literacy,” a voluntary after-school program. This program is an example of ways that we are innovating to address these concerns.

SOL Scores (Virginia’s standardized testing system)

As we make clear with every announcement of accreditation and Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores, we – along with our peers across the state – have reservations about the SOL tests and what they do and do not measure. The state’s Standards of Learning tests are an easy way to get a point-in-time snapshot of whether a a student met a specific threshold, but these tests are criticized for their frequent changes in content and format and their inability to measure a student’s growth.  They are a point-in-time measure of a cohort’s knowledge on a series of disparate exams.

Do we take SOL scores seriously?  Of course. They are an important state measure, and they also point out the disparities that we need to address for our students of color and our students who face economic disadvantages.

Due to the diagnostic limitations of the SOL tests, however, we have spent several years surveying and testing nationally accepted instruments that are more helpful in guiding our instruction.   This year, we have implemented the use of the MAP test for reading and math, which creates a portrait of individual students’ and cohorts’ growth. Preliminary results from these nationally normed tools indicate that the tremendous gaps that we find in our preschool populations diminish over the years that our students are enrolled at Charlottesville City Schools, leading to our strong end-of-course pass rates and our rising graduation rate at CHS.

Suspensions

We have made tremendous progress in reducing our rate of suspensions. In the last decade, the division-wide rate of suspensions has dropped 83 percent, and at Charlottesville High School, it has dropped 87 percent. We are very proud of these dramatic gains. We are still making progress on the disproportionality of the remaining suspensions, which we are addressing in a number of ways.

We continue to scaffold our systems of supports (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports), which offer a more holistic and data-driven approach and direct attention to underlying issues. In a similar
vein, we are a founding member of the Greater Charlottesville Trauma Informed Community Network, which provides professional learning and shared resources to help our schools and community agencies.

In addition, as part of our larger commitment to creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive to all, we have offered professional learning focusing on issues such as Charlottesville’s African-American history along with a range of small-group and division-wide book studies, film viewings, conferences, and workshops that address issues of racism, systemic barriers, implicit bias, positive climate training, restorative practices, and more.

Other Resources and Related Reporting on Equity

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Photo of an African-American graduate

Graduation Rates Rise; Community Forum on Equity Scheduled for 10/23

Female graduate walks across the stageContinuing a pattern of growth, the Charlottesville High School on-time graduation rate rose to 92.6 percent for the class of 2018, which exceeds the state’s overall rate. The drop-out rate fell to 4.8 percent, also superior to the state’s rate.

The on-time graduation rate also rose for African-American students in Charlottesville, hitting 88.3 percent. Since 2006, this rate for Charlottesville’s black students has risen almost 25 points.

“We are so proud of our students and the staff who support them. The growth in our black students’ graduation rates in the last twelve years is tremendous,” noted Dr. Rosa Atkins, superintendent. “Even so, we are never complacent, and we see areas for growth. We want to make sure that all of our students are fully prepared for life after graduation.”

PhotoOne growth area is the attainment of the advanced studies diploma across all racial and ethnic groups. At 73 percent, Charlottesville’s white students exceed their state peers in attaining this advanced diploma. Yet Charlottesville’s students of color are far less likely to attain the advanced diploma, which most closely aligns with the requirements of most four-year colleges and universities.

“When we look at our graduation rates, we celebrate the gains our students have made. And just as we encourage our students to do, we then set new goals for achievement,” noted Dr. Atkins.

As part its commitment to supporting all students, Charlottesville City Schools will host a community forum on equity on Tuesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. at Charlottesville High School.

illustration of raised hands with a computer search bar

Help Nights for Back-to-School Forms

illustration of raised hands with a computer search barHaving trouble creating your PowerSchool account? Need to add a child to the account? Want a hand finishing up your back-to-school forms? Working on your free/reduced lunch application?

Call or stop by during our Help Nights on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 4-5.  All Charlottesville families are welcome to attend either event. iSe habla español!

  • On Tuesday, 9/4, from 5-7pm, we’ll be at Clark School (1000 Belmont Avenue).
  • On Wednesday, 9/5, from 5-7pm, we’ll be at CHS (1400 Melbourne Rd).
  • Just need a student ID or a password reset? For student IDs, you can call your school. For password resets or other questions, call either 245-2943 or 245-2962. During the help nights, you can also call 245-2943 from 5-7pm.

Image says "translation -- see top of page" in Spanish, Chinese, Nepali, Arabic, and English.These important back-to-school forms are required for all returning students every year. (If you completed forms for a new student this spring or summer, you do not need to do them again.) Most of the answers are pre-completed for you. These forms help with:

  • health and emergency information
  • field trip permissions
  • authorizations for a friend or relative to pick your child up from school
  • accurate bus information
  • and much more!

Thanks to all who have completed them, and if you need any assistance, please call us or join us for the Help Nights for Back-to-School Forms.

Rick Wellbeloved-Stone

Modified from messages sent to current Charlottesville High School families and staff. If you wish to receive copies of any future messages related to this matter, please sign up here.

Dear Charlottesville High School community—

Rick Wellbeloved-Stone, a former CHS environmental sciences teacher, was sentenced on July 30, 2018 for the production of child pornography. One part of the evidence at the sentencing hearing included photographs taken at CHS during the time frame of 2012-2014. These photographs appear to have been made in his classroom during the school day without students’ knowledge. The police have worked to notify impacted families when possible.

Law enforcement has maintained a 24/7 tipline in case anyone has information relating to this matter. The number is 866-347-2423. Any former students who have information to share or who are concerned that they might have been photographed can contact this number.

The Charlottesville City Schools staff has cooperated fully with law enforcement. We are sorry that this violation of trust occurred in our school, and we are also sorry to relay unsettling news. But we want to give you the facts that are now available as part of our ongoing commitment to being honest and supportive of our community and families. Thank you.


For questions that are not related to the investigation, contact:

Beth Cheuk
cheukb1 at charlottesvilleschools.org
434-245-2400