For the second year, three Loudoun elementary schools -- Rolling Ridge, Guilford and Sugarland -- were named as Virginia Department of Education Priority and Focus Schools.
School officials said they expected the results and improvements have been underway for a year.
“Schools remain identified as Focus Schools for two years regardless of the performance of the school in the second year, so Guilford, Rolling Ridge, and Sugarland Elementary Schools are still designated as Focus Schools for this school year,” Loudoun County's assistant superintendent for instruction Sharon Ackerman said. “All three of our Focus Schools demonstrated improvement in most of the gap groups and Rolling Ridge Elementary met all of the [annual measurable objective] targets completely.”
Rolling Ridge is perhaps in the best shape of the three as they have been identified as an “improving Focus School.” Students met their goals on reading and made improvements on mathematics Standards of Learning tests.
According to Ackerman, LCPS instituted a tool to help each of the three schools. School officials were so impressed with the tool, it was implemented county-wide.
The tool follows three practices, including identifying students who are not succeeding, planning interventions for those students and monitoring the success of those interventions.
“We really took this seriously and we went way above the basic expectations. We had continual professional development for administrators and teachers in those three schools and held a lot of support meetings where they could come together and share the results of their walkthroughs,” Ackerman said. “One of the things we have done is really tighten 'focus' when [administrators] visit the classrooms.”
On those visits, administrators are looking for specific high-yield strategies, which are then recorded and presented with staff each month.
Ackerman said Guilford and Sugarland elementary schools have also increased student achievement in several subgroups, but just not enough to be considered an improving Focus School.
“Bringing the principals together really helped because they were able to learn from each other and be cheerleaders for each other,” she said.
By focusing on the improvement of the state's lowest performing schools, those named on the list must seek outside sources of assistance approved by the state to turnaround and improve grades.
Priority schools must engage turnaround partners to design and implement school reform models that meet state and federal requirements and Focus Schools must employ school improvement coaches.
Virginia identifies its lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1 schools as Priority Schools; another 10 percent of Title 1 schools are identified as Focus schools. In the commonwealth, 37 Priority Schools and 73 Focus Schools were identified.