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.
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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
> Read more.

State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
> Read more.

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Innsbrook After Hours continues its 32nd year with Aaron Lewis’ The Sinner Tour and special guest Travis Marvin. After releasing seven studio albums between 1996 and 2011 with his rock band Staind, singer, songwriter and guitarist Aaron Lewis went solo — and he went country. Gates open at 5 p.m. Show begins at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Net proceeds from the concert series benefit the American Constitution Spirit Foundation and the Innsbrook Foundation. Rain or shine. For tickets and more information, call the IAH Hotline at 423-1779 or visit http://www.innsbrookafterhours.com. Full text

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