DATE: November 8, 2018
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
Teachers, Students, Staff, and Community Members Contribute to Superintendent’s 100-Day Report, Focusing on Role of Schools in Lifting All Students to Greatness
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, will present his 100-day report to the School Board this evening, outlining how his listening tour will shape his priorities this year.
Last fall, the Board announced Dr. Haas’ appointment as superintendent, effective July 1. Dr. Haas said that his first order of business would be a listening tour to hear from teachers, employees, students, and members of the community about the opportunities and challenges facing Albemarle County Public Schools. Throughout the summer, he held 16 conversations with nearly 400 people.
“I want to thank our Assistant Superintendent for School Community Empowerment, Dr. Bernard Hairston, and his entire team for organizing these discussions,” said Dr. Haas. “I also want to express my gratitude to all the members of our community who attended these conversations or participated online, offering candid and meaningful counsel,” he added.
Dr. Haas said he heard a great many positive comments. “Clearly, we are well-positioned to build on many considerable strengths at a time when a very high bar has been set for how effectively we prepare students for lifelong success,” he said.
At the same time, the superintendent said that more important than hearing about strengths were the comments he heard about areas that needed improvement. “When I listen to our stakeholders and analyze much of the data we collect, I see students who start out eager to learn and greatly encouraged to do so,” Dr. Haas wrote. “As they make their way on the road through our schools, many children become increasingly disinterested and often lost, whether they appear successful or not,” he concluded.
Student climate surveys show, for instance, that 70 percent of third graders say they are curious about their schoolwork, but only 30 percent of high school seniors agree.
Specifically, the superintendent said:
- The school system should consistently and uniformly challenge students in ways that make them stronger and greatly engaged; and
- Learning barriers among students must be removed. “The most marginalized among us should have a seat at the table of prosperity,” he wrote.
Dr. Haas will tell the School Board that pass rates for state-mandated Standards of Learning (SOL) tests for African American and Latino students are below state averages and range from 51 to 64 percent. This would equate to a D or an F on the division’s grading scale. Average pass rates for students with disabilities range from 41 to 52 percent.
“There is a need across our division to increase our application of research-based instructional strategies and our focus on coordinating and teaching curriculum within and across grade levels to improve mastery,” Dr. Haas said.
The division also must broaden its faculty diversity:
Sixty-five percent of the student population identifies as white, but 89 percent of the teacher population is white. It would take an additional 312 teachers of color to have the percentages of students of color and teachers of color reach parity in the division. “This will be an uphill battle. We are facing a shortage of teacher applicants, especially minority applicants; however, this must be done. It is time,” Dr. Haas said.
- The division’s process for evaluating teacher performance needs a complete overhaul to make it simpler, easier to understand, and more relevant for teachers.
- Instruction should promote the development of skills for students in four areas—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
- A protocol needs to be developed that will more formally allow students throughout the division to provide feedback to teachers on classroom learning experiences.
- The current grading system is broken, based upon point accumulations and averages rather than on actual learning. This has fostered inconsistent grading practices across all schools. The community needs to be involved in its reform, which would rely upon several different measures for assessing student achievement.
- There should be a major expansion in the division’s community partnerships and volunteer programs. In accordance with the new state graduation requirement spelled out in Profile of a Virginia Graduate, the division will seek to provide as many as 1,000 work-based experiences each year for high school students. To have the infrastructure to do that, the division needs to be able to connect students with a wide range of mentors, employers, nonprofits, schools, and other professional experts.
Dr. Haas said he is highly optimistic about the future of the school division, based upon the progress he has seen over the 14 years he has served as a principal, assistant and deputy superintendent, and now as superintendent. Over that time, he said, the on-time graduation rate of students has become among the very best in the state; drop-out rates are much lower; far fewer students are suspended; and student attendance records are much more favorable than state averages. School climate reports also are more positive than many of the reports from school divisions across Virginia.
“Our society always has done better through our schools. We have made our nation, our state, and especially our own county better through these improvements. I know, with the assistance of our incredibly dedicated and talented learning communities, our schools will continue to be the catalyst for the greatness of our work,” Dr. Haas said.