After completing the request for proposals (RFP) process, Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) has chosen Bellwether, a nonprofit educational consultancy firm, to complete a division-wide audit of its educational programming, practices and resources, with a primary focus on reading and math instruction in elementary schools and Algebra 1 instruction in secondary schools.
The audit follows the release last fall of 2022 Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores showing that, while overall division test scores matched or surpassed state averages, the pass rates for several student demographic groups were well below those averages. For example, our Black and Hispanic students’ test scores were 10% below the state’s average in their peer group, while pass rates for students from economically disadvantaged homes were 8% lower than their peer group across Virginia.
As a result, ACPS Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, called for an outside review and analysis of the division’s instructional programs. A volunteer task force of teachers, families, instructional specialists, and parents helped formulate the proposal that resulted in the selection of Bellwether. The same task force will review the results of the audit and present recommendations to the Albemarle County School Board.
In its proposal, Bellwether said it will work in partnership with the school community to “deeply assess how students of color experience the district, its schools, and classroom instruction; identify what is contributing to those experiences; and make recommendations for strategic actions to close the gap between current learning outcomes for students of color and outcomes that students of color and their family desire for themselves.”
The audit will include a review of instructional materials; resources; classroom visits at 11 schools; an analysis of test scores; and a series of focus group discussions separately with teachers, students and parents. Included in its deliverables will be a root cause analysis that will “translate key themes and trends among data into insights and implications for how the division can improve learning outcomes for students of color.”
Bellwether will deliver audit findings to the task force, which will present their recommendations for improvements to the division’s executive leadership team and the school board.
Earlier this year, Haas hosted superintendents from four other Virginia school divisions that shared student demographic characteristics with ACPS but have had higher test scores across the membership groups. The day-long session concentrated on the sharing of best practices.
“Continuing on our current academic pathways is not an option,” Haas said, underscoring the commitment made in the title of the division’s strategic plan, Learning for All. “Every child has the capability to learn at a high level. It’s our responsibility to unlock that potential by focusing on high-quality teaching and learning that is relevant, competency-based, research-supported, culturally responsive, and results-oriented,” he said.
“Strengthening early reading and math skills builds an excellent foundation,” the superintendent continued. “These skills are fundamental, not only to improved student achievement for students we have historically marginalized, but also to improved access to advanced learning opportunities in our schools for these students and all students: All means all. Based on Bellwether’s findings and recommended next steps, we will use reserved funding to provide needed resources moving forward,” Haas said.
For more information on the process, and to access updates, visit the division’s Instructional Practices Audit web page.
CONTACT: Helen Dunn, Deputy Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer