SAT results presented at Monday night’s Clarke County School Board meeting demonstrate that CCPS students continue to outperform Virginia student SAT scores despite concerns about recent adequate yearly progress (AYP) results. With CCPS SAT scores indicating that traditional school subjects like math reading and arithmetic are being well received by students, Clarke County Farm Bureau representatives provided the School Board with an update on a hoped-for vocational educational collaboration between farmers and CCPS to create an outdoor agriculture learning center. And as innovative outdoor learning approaches are considered by agrarians and administrators, teacher Linda Bodkin was honored for providing instructional excellence to students with special needs.
CCPS Students Out Perform Commonwealth SAT Scores
“Our SAT scores rock!” Clarke County Public School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Following a presentation on SAT test performance, County Supervisors questioned Murphy about the previous night’s School Board meeting and the general state of education in Clarke County.
Murphy provided the Supervisors with an executive overview of student SAT performance prepared by newly hired Testing Coordinator Ed Shewbridge.
“Our kids are doing very well on the SATs” Murphy told the Supervisors. “and we know that SAT performance is a strong predictor of life success.”
Formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the now-named SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized measure used by many college admissions officers to evaluate potential applicants and to provide access to scholarships. In 2010, 126 CCHS seniors out of a class of 199 took the SAT test; Virginia had approximately 59,000 test takers with over 1.5 million taking the test nationwide.
While CCPS students scored higher than the Virginia average in writing, reading and math, the mathematics differential was the smallest of the three and indicated a declining trend from 2006 to present.
When questioned about the math results Murphy agreed with the Supervisors’s concern.
“Even though we have a long way to go and math is a division-wide weakness, our kids who take the SAT are still doing very well in math” Murphy said.
Murphy said that he believes that SAT test participation is down at CCPS because of elimination of student funding subsidies for both the CCPS International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs. Murphy reasoned that families may be trying to stretch limited family budgets to cover both IB and AP course costs and simply opting to forgo SAT testing costs.
Supervisor Dunning (White Post) asked Murphy if CCPS students with limited funds were ever denied access to the opportunity to take the SAT test.
Murphy told Dunning that funds were available to help financially challenged students pay for the SAT but that students must self-identify themselves as economically disadvantaged because such financial data is confidential and not available to the school system.
Murphy acknowledged to the Board that although the SAT scores trends had leveled off from initial increases demonstrated by the multi-year trend analysis, CCPS student SAT performance is still above average.
“Nine percent of the 129 students who took the SAT test are at the top of the performance chart” Murphy said. “They are incredibly high-achieving students.”
Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) asked Murphy which of the various student performance tests means the most in terms of measuring school performance.
Murphy replied that the SAT was most important because it is a consistently implemented, rigorous and nationally normalized test.
Supervisor Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) asked Dr. Murphy what percentage of CCPS students elect to go on to college. Murphy replied that the answer depended on whether “college” is defined to include certificate programs as well as two-year and four-year degree programs.
Murphy said that 74% of last year’s graduating class reported plans for additional education and 50 students indicated strong plans to go directly into a job. Murphy said that only three to four percent of CCPS students choose the military after graduating. Murphy also told the Supervisors that last year’s on-time graduation rate was 95% and this year’s rate will likely be higher.
The US National Center for Education Statistics announced earlier this year that one out of four U.S. high school students fails to graduate on time nationwide. The failure percentage jumps to 40 percent among African-American and Hispanic students.
The on-time graduation rate in the U.S. has remained between 70 percent and 75 percent since 1990. The Center for Education Statistics report shows that in 2008, Nevada had the lowest graduation rate at 51 percent followed closely by the District of Columbia at 56 percent. Wisconsin and Vermont demonstrated the highest on-time graduation rates with nearly 90 percent.
Supervisor Dunning expressed admiration for young people who choose trade skills as a career and asked Dr. Murphy to characterize the strength of CCPS’s vocational programs.
Murphy agreed with Dunning that vocational training was an important education option and said that CCPS needs to continue to work with Lord Fairfax Community College to offer vocational specialty courses.
“We want to nurture higher education no matter if it’s traditional college or not” Murphy said.
Supervisor Byrd followed Dunning’s line of questioning by asking whether the vocational education area at the new high school will be properly equipped to support the tools and infrastructure necessary for the vocational agriculture programs.
Murphy said that the planning process for the new vocational center was still in progress and issues related to welding stations, exhaust fans and electrical support were all being considered.
“We don’t want to downsize agriculture” Byrd said.
As the discussion switched to budget matters Murphy told the Supervisors that although last year’s anticipated school budget carryover amount of approximately $100K had not materialized, Murphy still hoped to formalize a carryover target with the Board of Supervisors that would make end-of-year budgeting easier for school officials.
Murphy’s comment prompted Supervisor Chairman Hobert to respond that the Supervisors’s policy is to not touch the school system’s carryover funds although there is encouragement to only spend the left-over monies on “one-time” expenditures.
Near the end of the discussion Supervisor Dunning complemented Murphy for his openness and honesty in sharing information with the Supervisors.
Still No Firm Plans for Outdoor Ag-Lab
Clarke County Farm Bureau representatives Clay Brumback and Corey Childs told the School Board Monday night that an ad-hoc committee of Farm Bureau members, school staff and non-Farm Bureau farmers were still brainstorming about ways to use the 18-acre vocational agriculture property at the current high school as an outdoor agriculture laboratory.
In May, Childs told the Clarke County School Board that the Farm Bureau hoped to re-focus a portion of the school curriculum through an outdoor agricultural classroom that provided experiential learning for Clarke County youth and adults through traditional and alternative farming instruction
Brumback told the School Board that, so far, the Farm Bureau had had discussions with horticulture instructor Beth Novak and agriculture instructor Geoff Cole to determine how the Farm Bureau might assist current agriculture classes by offering equipment and expertise.
Brumback also said that the ad-hoc committee had visited school and community farming programs at James Wood High School in Winchester, the Fauquier County Community Farm and Rappahannock County’s Farm-to-Table program.
“We would like to see a program that benefits both the school and the community through adult education” Brumback said.
Brumback said that in visiting the other programs in the area it became clear that success depended upon having support from both the community and the school system as well as plenty of energy from the people involved.
Bodkin’s Instruction Makes a Difference in the Lives of Students
Every good teacher makes a positive impact in the lives of their students. Unfortunately, many do not receive anywhere near the thanks they deserve for helping prepare today’s young people to be tomorrow’s adults.
Clarke County special education teacher Linda Bodkin was recently honored by Future Horizons, Inc. with the 2010 Carol Gray Award. The competitive award is based on parent nomination of special education teachers that make an outstanding contribution to the life of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome or autism.
Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development.
Future Horizons was founded in 1996 in the belief that dissemination of information about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome through books, conferences, and other media would beneficially impact those who live and work with the condition. Future Horizons is a world leader in publications and conferences on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.
While the exact cause of Asperger’s Syndrome is unknown, research supports the likelihood of a genetic basis for the condition.
Bodkin’s professional recognition was accompanied by a award certificate and a $500 merit award.
Congratulations and thank you Ms. Bodkin.