Venable will be offering tours to prospective parents on the dates listed below. All tours take place at 9:15 a.m. and last approximately 45 minutes. We limit the number of participants on each tour to ensure that everyone can hear and ask questions. Please call Ms. Lawson in the Venable office to register – 434-245-2418.
Parents should plan to arrive in the front office a few minutes early to sign in and receive visitors’ passes. Please allot time for parking as there are only a few spots available on site and many of the neighborhood streets do not permit non-resident parking during the day.
Unfortunately, requests for tours at other dates and times cannot be honored due to the disruption to classes.
Jackson-Via will be offering tours to parents on the dates listed below. All tours take place at 9:15 a.m. and last approximately 30-45 minutes. We limit the number of participants on each tour to ensure that everyone can hear and ask questions. Please call Ms. Harlow in the Jackson-Via office to register – 434-245-2416.
Parents should plan to arrive in the front office a few minutes early to sign in and receive visitors’ passes. Please allot time for parking as there are typically few spots available on site and many of the neighborhood streets do not permit non-resident parking during the day.
Unfortunately, requests for tours at other dates and times cannot be honored due to the disruption to classes.
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, read on.
…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
Overview of Charlottesville City Schools’ Emphasis on Equity
Our efforts to promote student growth and success are ongoing and extensive. For an overview of our approach and efforts, click here.
Community Forum on Equity
Join us on October 23 at 7pm at CHS for a community forum to discuss where we are and where we want to be.
A Deeper Dive on Specific Topics Addressed in or Related to the Article
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At 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:
When all Charlottesville Schools employees are considered, our staff is slightly more diverse than the Charlottesville metro area.
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:
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.
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. 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.
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.
Students and families from all six CCS elementary schools are invited to gather for the annual all-elementary school tailgate to cheer on the Black Knights at the CHS v. Louisa County High School football game.
Organized by the Venable Elementary PTO, Friday Knight Lights 2018 will include tailgate games, food, and pre-game visits from the CHS cheerleaders, football players, and marching band.
Singer/cellist BJ Griffin and his pianist Jason Brown spent three days in music workshops with Walker, Buford, and CHS orchestra students. The visit culminated with a performance with the CHSO for Walker and Buford orchestra students at the CHS Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center.
“I can’t say enough positive things about this experience,” said Fine Arts Coordinator Aaron Eichorst. “It’s the best kind of instruction and engagement we strive to provide. What an honor to be part of it.”
During the performance, students sang along and clapped to Griffin’s renditions of pop hits by artists like Michael Jackson, Lordes, and Ed Sheeran.
Griffin is known for his solo and ensemble performances that mix classical, jazz, and pop music. He is also a singer/songwriter that has worked throughout the east coast. For more about Griffin, visit https://www.bjgriffinmusic.com/about.
“Every Learner. Every day. Everyone.” These words embody our mission – that at Charlottesville City Schools, we want to support all of our learners.
How are we doing on that? By some measures, we’re doing great. Our graduation rate rose to 92.6%, and for black students, that rate has risen 25 points since 2006. Data shows that as students move through our schools, they show strong growth. As we’ve emphasized social-emotional learning and added supports for positive behaviors, our suspensions have dropped significantly.
However, by other measures, we still have work to do. On Virginia’s “standards of learning” tests, our African-American students are often not meeting the state’s standards. While we and others see these tests as faulty, even so, this is a sign that needs attention. Similarly, we want to diversify the students who enroll in advanced and AP classes, who participate in our gifted programs, and who attain the state’s advanced diploma.
We take these matters seriously. To familiarize yourself with our approaches to promoting equity, please visit charlottesvilleschools.org/equity. We create opportunities and supports throughout our schools, and we work with local and national partners to study and address underlying issues.
Relatedly, you might have followed community discussions about our schools’ dress codes and whether they ban hate symbols that were displayed during the violence in August 2017. Presently, there is no explicit ban in the Albemarle or Charlottesville code, but our School Board stated that symbols of hate are not appropriate in our schools. We and Albemarle County Public Schools have agreed to work together to explore not only the issue of hate symbols, but also the larger question of how we can better serve all of our students.
To further explore these topics, we invite you to a community forum on Tuesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. We help our children learn and grow. Our community and schools will learn and grow, too.
VA FIRST LADY AND SUPER WHY! VISIT GREENBRIER ON LITERACY TOUR
Toting a Wonder Woman backpack and a cartload of picture books, Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam visited Greenbrier. PBS’s popular character Super Why! was also there to give high fives and hugs. Stopping in to surprise several classrooms, the First Lady paused in one preschool class to read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?” Cville Schools is proud to partner with the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, Albemarle County Schools, and MACAA Head Start to provide quality early childhood education.
BUFORD COMMUNITY MURAL IN PROGRESS
Anyone who has been at Buford in the last 10 years probably recognizes this face! Head custodian Anne Martin, wearing the school’s “I am Excellent” t-shirt, is one of many who are featured on a new mural spanning the cafeteria wall. “So many people give so much to the school, and I think that this is a lovely representation and really tells the story of Buford,” said Principal Stephanie Carter. Funded in part by the Charlottesville Mural Project, the finished mural will feature teachers, students, and other Buford community members. Local artist Eliza Evans is donating her time to paint the portraits.
ARTIST, CREATOR OF UVA MEMORIAL VISITS CHS
Eto Otitigbe, the designer of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA, spoke to art, history, and engineering students at CHS about the project to honor the enslaved people who helped construct the first buildings at UVA. Otitigbe discussed the importance of learning about history in the context of art. “Through creativity and artistic expression, we can inspire and gather ideas from different perspectives,” he said. Photo credit: Jeneene Chatowsky, UVA Advancement Communications.
Johnson students enjoyed picking apples while they learned about the fruit’s life cycle at Carter Mountain’s “Apple School.” Next up? Farm-to-School Week activities and tastings at all our schools this week thanks to City Schoolyard Garden and the Local Food Hub. Photo credit: Rebecca Covington.
A patient at UVA Children’s Hospital plays a math game with elementary teacher Deborah Johnson and Principal Eric Johnson. To read more about our Hospital Education Program, click here.
“We are the same because we both like recess. We also both like art,” write two Clark students. The project was inspired by reading “Same, Same but Different.” Learn more and see the amazing photos by ESL teacher April Hoffman here.
Find more info and events on on our website, social media, or our Google calendars!
Nearly 1700 musicians participated in the Charlottesville High School Marching Knights Cavalcade, an annual high school marching band competition, on Saturday, October 6 at the Charlottesville High School stadium.
The competition included 22 bands from high schools across Virginia for an afternoon of music and marching performances. A panel of judges evaluated the bands in each of five classes in music, marching, general effect, color guard, percussion and drum major. Awards were given to the top finishers in each division.
As host, the CHS Band did not compete, however, they performed their “Starry Nights” exhibition. The performance featured evening sky-themed music (think “Moonlight Sonata” and “Twinkle Twinkle”) and visuals featuring Van Gogh’s famous painting. The band recently competed with this performance in the 2018 Hermitage Classic competition and placed 2nd out of 12 A/AA bands.
The Cavalcade competition has been a tradition in the Charlottesville music community for 30 years, starting under the direction of long-time band director and community member Vincent Tornello. The competition is highly regarded by Virginia bands not only for its top-notch musical and marching performances, but also for its beautiful setting in Charlottesville and the warm hospitality provided by the CHS Band community.
Charlottesville City Schools, in partnership with City Schoolyard Garden, celebrated a week of garden activities, visits from farm animals, and made-from-scratch lunches made with local ingredients provided by area farmers through Local Food Hub.
During Charlottesville Healthy Schools Week and VA Farm to School Week students sampled a variety of healthy foods including farmer’s market salsa and vegetable soup while also taste-testing local goat cheese, pears, and apples.
On Thursday, Charlottesville City Schools hosted special guest Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni at Venable School. Secretary Qarni and members of his staff joined students for lunch, visited the garden to see goats from Caramont Farms, and sampled cherry tomatoes, CSYG’s October Harvest of the Month.
Throughout the week, students across the division also mingled with goats, bees, chickens, and sheep in our school gardens and learned about composting, apple pressing, wool carding, and more.
The week culminated with the Fall Harvest Festival at Buford Middle School at 5:30 p.m. This annual free community event offered food, fun, music, and garden activities for all.
Charlottesville City Schools partners with the local nonprofit City Schoolyard Garden for a shared vision: Young people thrive with the opportunity to engage with nature, to enhance their academic learning through hands-on experience, to cultivate skills for healthy living, and to grow in leadership.
Together, Charlottesville City Schools and City Schoolyard Garden manage nine garden spaces including one at all six Charlottesville public elementary schools, Buford Middle School, Charlottesville High School, and our alternative high school, Lugo-McGinness Academy. These gardens encompass over 26,383 square feet of diverse organic gardens with over 33,724 student interactions for over 3,500 youth each year.
Continuing 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.”
One 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.