The Prince William County Public School system is making slow but steady overall progress toward its long-term Strategic Plan goals, school officials said this month.
“Virginia, like many states in the nation, received a waiver to No Child Left Behind,” said Timothy Healey, Associate Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability, at the PWCS board meeting held on Nov. 7 “This allowed Virginia to recalibrate its accountability system, and the focus is now on meeting our annual measurable objectives (AMOs) in reading, math, and graduation.”
This year, 62 schools met all the objectives, and an additional 13 schools only missed one or two of them.
The five Strategic Plan goals look forward to the next two to three years, and, according to Healey's presentation, focus on:
- high student performance standards
- diverse and positive teaching and learning environments
- family and community engagement
- diverse and high-quality staff and faculty
- an integrated and equitable organizational system
These broad goals are broken down into more specific strategic measures, including school accreditation, SOL test results, reducing the achievement gap, daily attendance percentages, graduation rates, reducing the teacher turnover rate and increasing the number of permanent buildings for the students.
On the Standard of Learning test (SOL), the new rigorous math standards meant PWCS passing rates fell and the achievement gap widened, although Prince William still largely outperformed the Virginia state average.
"Every student group except one outperformed the state average in our math test,” Healey said. “That one group was our Asian population. We were one percentage point below the state average for our Asian population."
PWCS also made another small step toward meeting the goal for qualifying score rates on at least one advanced exam. The annual goal is that 40 percent of students would get a qualifying score on an AP, IB or Cambridge exam. Currently, PWC is at 32 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, up from 29 percent in the 2009-2010 school year.
By 2015, PWCS hopes that 60 percent of graduates will take at least one advanced exam or a certification course. In the 2011-2012 year, 51 percent of graduates took at least one advanced exam, 75 percent of graduates took a certification course, and 92 percent of graduates took either an advanced exam or a certification course.
PWCS is also just shy of meeting its on-time graduation rate. By 2014, 90 percent of seniors should graduate within four years of beginning 9th grade. In the 2011-2012 year, 89 percent of seniors met this goal.
Meanwhile, SAT scores are staying relatively constant, though they do not yet meet or exceed average SAT scores at the state and national levels.
Michael Otaigbe, who represents the Coles District on the school board, suggested that PWCS integrate SAT practice tests into classroom learning. Healey said that was a suggestion to be considered, but argued that “day-to-day rigor” was the real solution.
"That may not have the quick fix we are trying to get, but in the long term, that's really our best strategy," he said.
The day-to-day rigor is measured in Strategic Plan goals for elementary and middle school as well. For example, by 2015, PWCS hopes to get 40 percent of 8th grade students to take Algebra I and subsequently pass both the class and the associated SOL test. In 2011-2012, 33 percent of 8th graders in the county achieved this goal.
For more information on the progress towards the PWCS Strategic Plan goals, see the Strategic Plan Report here [PDF] or on the right.