Henrico County VA
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Henrico trails state averages in SATs, ACTs

Henrico County high school seniors scored above the federal average but below the state average during the 2011-12 school year on the two most prominent college admissions tests, according to results released recently.

Henrico students averaged a composite score of 21.9 out of a possible 36 on the four-part ACT (compared with a state average score of 22.4) and 1501 on the SAT (compared with the state average of 1517).

While expressing their disappointment with the results, school officials offered School Board members several explanations and detailed efforts to improve both sets of scores this year and in the future.

"Certainly we are not happy with the performances, and we know that we have some work to do," Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Eric Jones told the board during its Oct. 11 work session.

Jones suggested, though, that since the scores reflect only the final tests given during the school year – and not earlier ones – they may not present a completely accurate representation of student knowledge. Some students, for example, may only be focused on one particular section of a test, if they have already attained high scores in other sections during earlier testing.

But, he conceded, the same would hold true for all students whose scores are reflected in the latest numbers statewide and nationally.

To remedy the disappointing scores, high school principals have initiated a variety of efforts.

Godwin Principal Elizabeth Armbruster told the board that her school has implemented lunch study "boot camps" for students taking the SAT, while math teachers have incorporated SAT-style questions into lessons during the two weeks prior to the test. The school also has marketed SAT resources and events to students and parents more strongly than in the past, she said.

At Varina High, teachers have provided more timed writing exercises for students, Principal Tracie Omohundro said. (Jones had suggested that the lack of such exercises district-wide could have contributed to lower scores on the writing portion of the SAT, which is timed.)

Varina also is encouraging juniors to take the SAT to become familiar with the test, Omohundro said, and the school became a testing site, which she said may have helped relieve stress for students who previously had to take the test at unfamiliar schools.

At Hermitage, students have been exposed to an SAT word and question of the day on the school's TV network, Principal Omega Wilson said. Teachers also offer bonus credit in some classes for students who included that information in some way during class participation.

Several Hermitage teachers also have provided before- and after-school tutoring in English and math, and the school offered a Princeton Review course for students, Wilson said.

Jones suggested that the district needed to focus more on increasing daily academic rigor to develop students who could think analytically, understand broad concepts and solve problems – not just learn how to take standardized tests.

"In many ways, I think we've fallen victim to an SOL culture of doing well on a minimal-level competency multiple-choice test," Jones said.

Though SAT math scores did improve from the previous year, the school system is forming a math advisory board, composed of parents, teachers, administrators, university officials and others, to help review current lessons and recommend possible changes, he said.

School administrators are encouraging students to take the ACT, Jones said, which officials believe is a better evaluation of student knowledge than the SAT. The ACT is now accepted by all Virginia colleges, he said.

Jones suggested that restoring funding to allow all ninth- and tenth-graders to take the PSAT could help boost SAT and ACT scores (by providing students with exposure in advance) and that adding funding for prep courses for students – or training sessions for teachers – also would be helpful.

School Board members asked Jones to return next month with a "wish-list" of several items that they might consider adding to the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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