Henrico County VA

School Board blasts Va. Dept. of Education

Henrico County School Board members blasted the Virginia Department of Education during a work session Aug. 16, calling the state's new Standards of Learning tests in math inappropriate and discouraging and suggesting that they could set the state back by forcing teachers to teach to the test.

Board members made their comments after hearing mostly positive news from school system officials about anticipated state accreditation numbers for Henrico schools.

Ninety-seven percent of the county's public schools (64 schools in total) are expected to earn full state accreditation when final results are released next month, according to preliminary data compiled by the school system.

The results would represent a slight improvement from the 95.5 percent of schools that earned full accreditation last year.

Elementary and middle schools earn accreditation by meeting minimum thresholds of student achievement in the state's Standards of Learning tests. In addition to meeting similar SOL standards, high schools also must meet minimum requirements in the new Graduation and Completion Index (GCI) rating system as well.

But while they were pleased with the anticipated results, School Board members voiced their displeasure with the new math SOL tests.

"Shame on the state Department of Education," Board Chair Diana Winston said, taking issue with the fact that many third-graders in Henrico spent as long as two or three hours taking a test that is supposed to last at most 45 minutes. "What are they testing is what I want to know. They have thrown educators in the state of Virginia back to square one again. I don't know what the state is coming to, because this is not good for children."

Board Vice Chair Beverly Cocke of the Brookland District said that at Moody Middle School, students who spent four hours on the math test were not the exception but the rule. One Hermitage student spent nine hours taking a high school SOL math test, she said.

"The pendulum's just gone too far in the other direction," Cocke said. "This is hurting our children."

Varina District board member John Montgomery said that the new standards would require teachers to spend more time teaching to the test and could impact their ability to mold student learners.

"We're going to rise to the occasion [as a school system]," he said, "but really the question is 'At what cost, and to what benefit?' I don't know how we got to this point, but it sure is discouraging."

Superintendent Patrick Russo told the board that the school system had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the state to receive specific data about the average length of time it took students to complete the math tests and that it was awaiting that information.

Schools are considered accredited if they meet or exceed each of the required benchmarks during the most recent school year or if their average results during the most recent three years do so. Preliminary data shows that 59 percent of the Henrico schools expected to earn accreditation this year will have done so by meeting those benchmarks during the 2011-12 school year. The other 38 percent of schools (25 in total) will earn accreditation based on their three-year averages.

All Henrico high schools are expected to meet the GCI rating, which awards 100 points for each student who graduates in four years, 75 points for each student who earns a GED, 70 points for each student who is still enrolled in school after four years and 25 points for each student who earns a certificate of completion. Schools must earn an average of 85 points per student or higher to meet the standard.

Two schools – Fairfield and Wilder middle schools – are expected to be accredited with warning because of low math SOL scores. It would be the second straight accreditation with warning for Wilder.

School system officials have identified 12 "at-risk" schools on which they will focus extra efforts in the coming year with the goal of improving results. Those schools are Donahoe, Fair Oaks, Johnson, Montrose and Sandston elementaries; Brookland, Elko, Fairfield, Rolfe and Wilder middle schools; and Highland Springs and Varina high schools.

Academic Achievement Teams (AATs) will meet regularly at each school to review student data, create and implement plans and review them to make changes as needed in order to impact student learning in a positive way, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Eric Jones told the Henrico School Board during a work session Aug. 16.


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Community

MADD to host candlelight vigil Dec. 2 at UR

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.

Tournament supports adoption efforts

Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.

Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.

A.C. Moore to host winter craft day for kids

Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


The Dominion GardenFest of Lights Grand Illumination takes place tonight at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden! This year’s theme is “A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden,” which celebrates the Garden’s history. You can also celebrate Thanksgiving again – tomorrow at Henricus Historical Park. More great events – Lavender Fields Herb Farm and Wilton House Museum will both host their holiday open house events this weekend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A hero is born

Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6,’ lovable robot Baymax delight
It may be time for Olaf to step down as our nation’s reigning cartoon character. Big Hero 6, the latest animated feature from Disney, contains a challenger to the throne: Baymax (Scott Adsit), another lovably chubby white wonder, who will bring joy to children’s hearts and invade every home in America inside a six-foot pile of Disney merchandise.

Big Hero 6 (based ever so slightly on a Marvel comic of the same name) is the story of Baymax – and also his closest companion Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter). And then also their four friends, all of whom join together to form the titular superhero team.

At first, though, it’s only Hiro, a young boy and an engineering prodigy, who’d rather spend his time in underground robot fight clubs than do something productive with his gifts. > Read more.

Authentically Italian

Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.

In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)

For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will present the Dominion GardenFest of Lights nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 28 to Jan. 12 (closed Dec. 24-25). This holiday tradition features… Full text

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