Charlottesville City Schools serves 4,500 students who are economically, racially, and ethnically diverse, and we want all of them to succeed. This is made possible by a culture of respect, high expectations, and mutual support.
We’ve come a long way in helping all of our students grow:
- Our on-time graduation rate for African-American students has grown by 25 points since 2006;
- At CHS, our African-American enrollment in honors classes has grown 29 percent since the 2015-16 school year.
- Our students have elected a wide variety of their peers as class presidents, homecoming queens, School Board reps, and other key positions. Recent leaders and honorees have included students from many racial and ethnic groups, special needs students, and immigrants and refugees;
- Our AVID program sends first-generation college students to U.Va., Howard, and many more top universities.
Even so, we see persistent achievement differences — often along lines of race and socioeconomic status — in areas such as standardized testing, diploma type earned, enrollment in advanced classes, and more. We are committed to addressing these disparities.
In other words, we have come far, yet we are committed to doing more. Read below to learn about some of our approaches to achieving progress.
- For updates on new initiatives, reports, and the work of our Equity Committee, click here.
- On October 16, 2018, ProPublica and The New York Times published an article about educational disparities in Charlottesville City Schools. To learn more about our response to the article and to further explore the issues raised by the article, click here.
The events of August 11 and 12, 2017, certainly provided challenges to the Charlottesville community, and in response to those challenges, our teachers provided incredible learning and reflection opportunities for our staff and students. Our response to the rallies began with our teachers, who returned to work just days after the rallies. We held an … Continue reading Response to White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville in August 2017
Community Partnerships to Promote Equity
Groups such as the Alliance for Black Male Achievement and 100 Black Men of Central Virginia work to “change the narrative” about black men and boys in the city. Examples of partnership include lunch buddies and other mentoring opportunities as well as positive displays of support. For example, students arriving at Buford Middle School have sometimes arrived at school by walking through a tunnel formed by supportive adult black men.
Charlottesville’s City of Promise received national recognition as one of only 15 recipients of federal Promise Neighborhood planning grants. City of Promise is the result of several interrelated efforts that over the course of ten years have resulted in a pathway of supports for children in three of the city’s under-resourced neighborhoods. By involving the community on multiple levels to refocus efforts around children’s education, City of Promise is truly changing the game for children in these three neighborhoods. At 62 percent, Charlottesville’s City of Promise students’ rate of college attendance is 10 percent higher than the national average for low-income students. In addition, City of Promise middle-schoolers’ state test scores have improved so much that in 2015-16, their pass rates exceeded Charlottesville’s all-student pass rate!
Another partnership that enhances the opportunities for all of our students is City Schoolyard Garden, which maintains garden classrooms and offers educational programs in most of our schools. Aside from getting our students’ brains and hands busy, CSG does important work in supporting academic learning, in developing student leadership, in promoting food justice, in furthering the health and well-being of our students and staff, and much more.
We have many other community partnerships to support our diverse students. A few examples include:
- Programs serving our English language learners. See below for more information.
- Books on Bikes, a group of Charlottesville teachers and librarians who bring books (and freezy pops) to low-income neighborhoods in the summer months
- CATEC, the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center
- Boys and Girls Club of Central Virginia (adjacent to Buford Middle School)
- STEM and health science partnerships with U.Va. (see below).
Aside from our local partnerships, our efforts to promote equity are also reliant on the expertise and programs of state and national partners.
Promoting Diversity in STEM and Healthcare
Charlottesville City Schools has a terrific neighbor, the University of Virginia. We regularly partner with U.Va.’s schools of education, engineering, and medicine to develop programs that expose all our students to engineering and medical fields with the goal of attracting a diverse pool of students in these fields.
The medical school partnership includes behind-the-schools tours of U.Va. Medical Center for all middle schoolers, and it also includes a student symposium of faculty-mentored medical research for the high school’s Biology 2 students.
The engineering partnership is even more substantial. The University of Virginia was instrumental in the creation of our five-year engineering curriculum that can begin as early as eighth grade. The engineering program has no application or math prerequisites to encourage as broad of participation as possible, and African-American participation in these programs has grown tremendously (nearly doubling) since the establishment of the program four years ago. Furthermore, we recognize that by middle school, some students have already decided that STEM is not for them, so we have developed a K-6 elementary iSTEM program that touches all of our students with cross-curricular, hands-on activities that will build a bridge to our expansive offerings in engineering, coding, math, and science. The iSTEM program continues at Buford Middle School and CHS to help build cross-curricular connections with the schools’ extensive science and engineering programs.
Teaching Local and African-American History
We believe that understanding our history is the best foundation for a positive future. This is true of our global, national, state, and local history. It’s even true of the history of Charlottesville City Schools, which closed Lane High School and Venable Elementary School in 1958 to resist integration before the courageous “Charlottesville 12” integrated our schools. Charlottesville 12 member Charles Alexander (or Alex-Zan) visits all Charlottesville elementary schools on a two-year schedule, speaking with 3rd- and 4th-graders to assure that our young people become familiar with our local story of massive resistance and desegregation. (Read about our School Board honoring and apologizing to the Charlottesville 12.)
We have offered African-American history classes at Charlottesville High School since 2009. Aside from these classes, we teach our history to our students, staff, and Board members. We work closely with groups such as the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Monticello, the City of Charlottesville’s Office of Human Rights, and others for field trips, curriculum, and resources to help our staff and students better understand our history. Charlottesville City Schools is one of six school systems statewide involved in Changing the Narrative, a Virginia Humanities initiative that aims to explore black history and culture in schools and encourages young people of color to explore and highlight their heritage. For a recent example of related professional learning for our teachers, see Charlottesville Tomorrow’s article, “CHS professional development focuses on city’s racial, ethnic history.“
In light of the white nationalist rallies in August 2017 (see above to explore the learning opportunities we created in response), we are renewing our commitment to learning from our history and guiding our students in crucial conversations that will lead to a better future for all.
Related media links:
Mentoring and Volunteering
We believe in mentoring, whether that means Buford eighth-graders serving as reading buddies at neighboring Johnson Elementary, upperclassmen at CHS welcoming ninth-graders through Link Crew, or teachers, coaches, and community members guiding students every step of the way.
The Link Crew program at CHS connects ninth-graders with peer mentors, who not only welcome them in August, but meet with them throughout the year to acclimate students to a new school, answer questions, and build relationships. During the years of this program, CHS has seen significant gains for ninth-graders in areas such as attendance, discipline referrals, academic engagement, and more.
We appreciate community mentors from groups such as City of Promise, City Schoolyard Garden, 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, and area churches, just to name a few. Volunteers for individualized academic or personal support also include our “Book Buddies,” friends from JABA’s FISH (Friends in the Schools Helping) program, volunteers from Abundant Life Ministries, students from UVa’s Madison House program, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge.
And of course we recognize the power that our teachers and staff have to guide students in whole group, small-group, and individualized instruction and interactions. During the school division’s staff-wide welcome convocation in August, Dr. Atkins told the stories of a number of recent CHS graduates who had shown inspirational resilience. Virtually all of the students gave special credit to one or more teachers who believed in them, challenged them, and guided them.
2018-19 Student Demographics (Division-Wide)
6% Asian/Pacific Islander/Hawaii
Gifted education students: 20% of K – 12 students
Percentage of CHS students taking at least one AP exam: 35%
Special education students: 14%
ESL students: 14%
Languages spoken: 51
Elementary School Demographics
These graphs come from Virginia’s School Quality Profiles and use 2017 data.
See statistics and discussion in “Partnerships to Recruit/Support a Diverse Staff,” below.
Honors-Option or Unleveled Classes
To increase enrollment in rigorous and college preparatory classes, in 2012-13, Charlottesville City Schools began offering innovative “honors-option” courses at CHS. In 2019-20, this model will expand to Walker and Buford.
These courses allow different students in the same classroom to elect standard-level or honors-level credit for the course, depending on the student’s choice in the complexity and rigor of the readings and assignments. This promotes greater equity and diversity within a given classroom, which benefits all students.
Another outcome is that it helps a greater number of students see themselves as capable of honors-level work and become more likely to enroll in future honors-level, dual enrollment, or AP classes. In fact, Charlottesville High School’s African-American enrollment in honors-level classes has risen 29 percent since 2015-16 (even excluding the honors-option classes). CHS teachers and staff have presented this model — which was developed with guidance from UVa’s Curry School of Education — at educational conferences and other venues.
Having started in English 9, honors-option classes have since spread to English 10-11, Economics and Personal Finance, AVID, Biology 2/Human Anatomy, capstone Commercial Photography, introductory world languages, and Spanish 2.
In the 2018-19 school year, Walker began a transition to unleved instruction; in 2019-20, both Walker and Buford will become more aligned with CHS’s honors-option model, which continues to expand across the curriculum.
- “Charlottesville High School tests new instructional model” (Charlottesville Tomorrow/Daily Progress, February 8, 2015)
Reducing Fees, Applications, Barriers
Recognizing that 56 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, we are committed to eliminating or minimizing participation fees for coursework, after-school activities, field trips, school supplies and more. Whenever possible, we build the cost of these programs into our school budget.
We also partner with the community to make sure that all of our students enter the school year ready for success. We have been nationally recognized for our use of technology, including supplying all students from 3rd-12th grade with their own Chromebook computer. In August, we join with Charlottesville’s African American Pastors Council to organize a free back-to-school bash in a pavilion on the iconic Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Churches, the schools, and other partners work together to provide school supplies, vouchers for haircuts, vaccinations and physicals, opportunities to sign up for clubs, and more. Another way we eliminate fees is that three of our elementary schools qualify and take advantage of the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision to provide school-wide free student meals. When specific fees are unavoidable, we supply scholarships for students eligible for free or reduced meals.
Beyond fees, we look to remove other barriers that might block students’ access to programs. For instance, our acclaimed engineering program (see below) requires no application or math prerequisites for entry. And we are building a division-wide elementary iSTEM program that reaches every single one of our students with 21st-century skills like coding and design thinking. We also help eliminate transportation barriers by providing late bus routes to accommodate after-school or evening activities and special events. In many cases, we go into the neighborhoods, using conveniently-located churches and community centers to hold parent meetings, tutoring sessions, and community forums. We are committed to opening doors.
Free Preschool Programs for Qualifying Three- and Four-Year-Olds
Evidence shows that the value of early childhood education is high. So is the price tag of private preschools! Because of our belief in the value of early childhood instruction, Charlottesville offers a free preschool program for qualifying 3- and 4-year-olds. This means paying for the 3-year-old program with local dollars and supplementing the state’s contributions for the 4-year-old program so we can serve more children. The preschool classes serve children who qualify based on factors such as poverty, developing English language skills, or the need for special services. Looking beyond our own school-based programs, we also partner with a neighboring school district, private preschools, and community agencies who offer preschool services. Jointly, we provide teacher training and even created a common application for families to minimize paperwork and barriers.
Extended-Day Program (Extending the Bridges of Literacy) — Pilot Program
In the 18-19 school year, with a Virginia Department of Education grant, Charlottesville City Schools has entered the third year of piloting a voluntary extended day program called Extending the Bridges of Literacy (EBL). The pilot program serves K- through fourth-graders who would benefit from additional time immersed in language arts activities. The after-school time cumulatively represents more than twenty additional days of instruction. The ultimate goal of EBL is to build confidence and enjoyment in our students’ literacy experiences. After just its first exploratory year, the pilot saw participating students’ fourth-grade pass rates on the PALS literacy test rise from 35 to 53 percent. In the 2017-18 year, all students made significant improvements on both the PALS and SOL test scores. Forty-three students went from being considered below grade-level expectations to being on grade level by the end of the year.
The EBL trial program complements a host of strategies and supports that are available in our schools.
AVID and Other College Preparatory Programs
Charlottesville Schools use the national Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) framework to help traditionally underrepresented students prepare for post-secondary education. In addition to AVID, Charlottesville Schools partner with other organizations to help students blaze a trail to college — other partnerships include the Virginia College Advising Corps, Gear Up, and Upward Bound.
AVID is implemented school-wide at the 5th and 6th grade levels, and students apply to participate in the program in grades 7-12. In 2016-17, the AVID program at Charlottesville High School featured 54 seniors, the school’s highest number yet. In 2017-18, 100 percent of AVID senior were accepted to at least one four-year program, including U.Va., Howard, the University of Richmond, and Virginia Tech! AVID students learn study skills, make college visits, are guided in a “college-prep” mindset for course selection and the college application process, and more. In Charlottesville our AVID students also engage in a number of community partnerships, making pitches and presentations for a number of groups including the area’s Public Education Fund, the Tom Tom Founder’s Festival, CFA’s Institute’s Project SERVE, and more.
The high school AVID program has also begun a mentoring/tutoring program for younger grades in part to encourage younger AVID students to make course selections that will set them on a path for college readiness.
In 2018, CFA Institute (headquartered in Charlottesville) partnered with us to create the CHS/CFA Institute Finance Academy, which supports the AVID program, the economics and personal finance course required of all students, and the CHS Student Investment Group. Aside from supporting these programs, this partnership also allowed the renovation of a CHS AVID classroom to support collaboration in a business/college environment.
Lugo-McGinness Academy is a small, non-traditional academy that serves Charlottesville City Schools students in grades 9-12. Students may self-select or be referred for admission to the LMA program. Students attending the academy are offered personalized learning through blended and face-to-face instruction, small class size, regular field trips, a Student Leadership Council, recreational basketball, a library, a gym, and a small garden.
After Lugo-McGinness Academy shifted its approach towards a trauma-informed environment, students made significant social and academic gains. In 2017, the school graduated four times as many students as during 2014, and the number of verified credits earned during this same time period rose from 13 to 44. Since implementing trauma-informed strategies, the school continues to see a tremendous reduction in disciplinary issues.
Lugo-McGinness regularly hosts educational leaders from other areas who wish to learn from our students’ and staff’s successes.
The Charlottesville High School WALK Program was founded in 2008 with a simple goal: to help struggling high school students earn credits needed for graduation. Today, the program does this and much more. Students may be referred to WALK if they are failing one or more classes, are in danger of dropping out, are recent transfers who need to meet Virginia requirements, have health or trauma-related issues that cannot be managed in a traditional classroom, or require an alternative setting.
WALK staff are focused not just on their students’ education, but also on gaining trust and establishing relationships. In addition to providing academic support and counseling assistance, WALK instructors take a holistic approach with their students, assisting them in managing their lives at school, at home, and in the community. Following graduation, WALK continues to serve many former students who need additional support and mentoring. Approximately 90 percent of WALK students recover at least one — and usually multiple — credits.
Dianna Poe of the WALK program was honored as the 2018 John L. Snook Child Advocate Award. Read more about the inspirational work of Ms. Poe and the WALK program here.
Special Education Programs and Student Services
Charlottesville City Schools offers a wide variety of supports for students with special needs with staff ranging from special education teachers and aides, social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses, and more. Information about our Department of Special Education and Student Services can be found here.
Among the unique offerings of our special education program is the Black Knight Coffee Cart at CHS, a program offered by students with disabilities. Begun in 2008, the student-run service offers homemade treats and drinks to CHS faculty and staff. This award-winning model has been featured in special education textbooks and has since spread across the country.
Another special program is the annual Little Feet Track Meet, jointly organized by Charlottesville and Albemarle Schools to provide a fun and supportive recreational opportunity.
Partnerships to Recruit/Support a Diverse Staff
At Charlottesville City Schools, we actively recruit minority teachers and staff to better reflect our diverse student body. For example, since 2004, we have partnered 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:
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:
Helping our English Language Learners
Charlottesville is not only racially diverse, but we are increasingly ethnically diverse with students from around the world. In 2017-18, approximately 15 percent of our students received services from our English as a Second Language (ESL) program, often assisted by our school-based social workers.
Among the innovative programs offered by our ESL program is a summer camp jointly offered with Albemarle County Public Schools to welcome new middle- and high-school arrivals to our community who are learning English. These students take a variety of field trips to familiarize themselves with the area and learn about American school routines. Most importantly, the students start building friendships and trust.
To help our immigrant and refugee students thrive, our ESL staff and social workers partner with work with the International Rescue Committee and a local nonprofit called International Neighbors. Both the IRC and International Neighbors offer services and assistance as families become self-sufficient and learn to navigate their new community. Through a contracted service, we provide translation offerings to help families communicate with school staff. (In addition, our web site can be translated into a wide variety of Google-supported languages with two clicks of the “Translate” button.) And through events such as International Day, we partner with families to give students a chance to explore the many cultures represented in our schools, whether the student is a recent immigrant or whether the student’s family has been in the U.S. for a number of generations.
iSe habla espanol! We have a Spanish translation line monitored by a Spanish teacher. In addition, we have participated in Hispanic Help Fairs, and as issues particular to the Hispanic community have arisen, we have partnered with groups such as Sin Barreras to help our families find answers and supports.
To learn more about our International Days and other ways we create a culture of diversity, see “Celebrating Similarities and Differences,” below.
Celebrating Similarities and Differences
Schools in Charlottesville host a wide variety of events celebrating the many cultures represented by our students. At many of our schools, events such as “International Day” give students a passport to travel to other cultures, tasting foods, seeing native dress, hearing music, and more. Class readings and literacy projects can also reinforce this lesson, such as Clark students’ photo essays based on the book “Same, Same But Different” or the way CHS has initiated a “Big Read” of “The Hate U Give” throughout the school and the community. For more information about how we raise awareness of local black history, see “Teaching Local and African-American History,” above.
Charlottesville High School lunches sometimes feature henna painting, salsa tastings, gender pronoun awareness campaigns, and more. The school hosts both an African-American History Month events and an assembly in February, and a Diversity Assembly in March. These events highlight awareness of various American and world cultures, and they promote an appreciation for all of our students’ contributions to the CHS community. Also at CHS, the Culture2Culture club is a peer-tutoring program that matches students interested in tutoring with English Language Learners. Students meet one-on-one weekly at lunch throughout the year, building friendships as well as academic progress.
At all our schools, our libraries and reading selections feature a diversity of voices. Our fine arts program features a variety of styles and genres and brings artists, authors, and musicians into our schools representing many different cultures and voices. And our teachers, school counselors, and mentoring programs engage students in a number of team-building activities that help students celebrate both differences and similarities.
In addition, as part of our larger commitment to creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive to all, we have provided our staff with 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, positive climate training, implicit bias, restorative practices, and more.
In November 2018, the Charlottesville City Schools School Board unanimously passed a resolution that bans students from wearing clothing that depicts symbols “associated with racial hatred and violence.”
Citing the events of August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, board members resolved that “student dress that is disruptive of the learning environment, that contains language or images that are discriminatory, or that promotes violent conduct or contains threats includes, but not limited to, clothing that depicts Confederate imagery or the Nazi swastika or contains images and language associated with the Ku Klux Klan and other White Nationalist groups, is prohibited and will not be tolerated in our schools.”
In 2017, Charlottesville City Schools created a new position, Family Engagement Facilitator. While our schools have always provided parent and family programming and resources, this employee is specifically dedicated to helping schools connect with parents/guardians. In addition, Mrs. Coleman is establishing communications channels and building a network of community partners that are united in supporting school families in our community. One of her newest endeavors is “Bus Stop Meet and Greets,” at which she mingles with parents and supplies students with free books! She is also piloting Family Engagement On Demand, a mobile-friendly online tool that gives users great ideas and resources to support their children in the classroom.
Charlottesville City Schools is committed to social and emotional learning and trauma-responsive practices. We recognize that many of our students have encountered significant challenges that require understanding and care. Trauma-responsive practices try to identify the underlying issues that drive a child’s behavior and to build supports that will help the child succeed.
Consequently, we have begun seeking resources and training for our staff and helped establish the Greater Charlottesville Trauma Informed Community Network. This network is comprised of schools, agencies, health-care professionals and others, united by the following mission: to improve trauma-informed care by educating professionals and the community on the impacts of trauma and by advocating for trauma-sensitive systems of care.
Among our initial efforts to incorporate trauma-responsive practices, we have offered multiple staff and community-partner screenings of films such as Paper Tigers, trainings such as “Barking Dog,” and presentations such as “Trauma-Informed Practices in the Classroom.” In March 2018, we cosponsored a community workshop called “Trauma in the Context of School Safety.” Jim Sporleder (featured in Paper Tigers) was the keynote speaker for our staff-wide convocation in August 2018.
Related to Trauma-Responsive Practices
- Social-Emotional Learning
- Staff Supports such as Counselors, Social Workers, and Psychologists
- Systems of Supports
- Wellness at Charlottesville City Schools
To learn about the impact of a shift toward trauma-sensitive practices at our alternative academy, see “Lugo-McGinness Academy.”
Systems of Supports (PBIS and VTSS)
Combining two protocols — Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, and Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports — helps us to create a structure where social and emotional learning, positive behavior, and mental wellness fit within a school’s core functions right alongside academic learning.
To learn more, visit charlottesvilleschools.org/supports.
The Charlottesville City School Division is an equal opportunity employer, committed to nondiscrimination with regard to sex, gender, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, ancestry, age, marital or veteran’s status, physical or mental genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political affiliation, or any classification protected by applicable law.
This attitude commitment will prevail in all its policies and practices concerning staff, students, educational programs and services, and individuals and entities with whom the Board does business.
The Director of Human Resources shall act as the compliance officer for discrimination issues regarding employees and the general public under Title IX.
The Director of Student Services shall act as the compliance officer for discrimination issues regarding students under Title IX and Section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973.
Both compliance officers may be contacted at the administrative offices of Charlottesville City Schools, 1562 Dairy Road, Charlottesville, VA. 22901. The phone number is 434-245-2400.