Software May Improve CCPS Student Academic Performance

School Board members gathered last Thursday to approve revisions to the district’s Standards of Student Conduct and to temporarily suspend a policy that guarantees Clarke County students will not be charged tuition for virtual classes taken online. The School Board also moved a step closer to procuring a longitudinal data tracking system that will help school officials to better track and improve academic performance of Clarke County students.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy briefed the School board on Thursday regarding changes made to CCPS’s codified set of rules that govern student conduct known as “Standards of Student Conduct”.   Murphy said that a section had been added to the code to address student bullying behavior as well as an addition that addresses synthetic marijuana.

“The biggest change to the document is rethinking our use of the terms ‘restriction’, ‘suspension’ and ‘expulsion’” Murphy said.

Murphy pointed out that terminology regarding “suspension” had been tightened to eliminate the concept of “in-school suspension”. Murphy noted that “suspension” refers to keeping a student out of school, a practice that CCPS attempts to avoid.

“When a student is sent to the alternative education facility the student is technically being restricted, not suspended” Murphy said. Murphy attributed Clarke County High School’s stellar graduation rate, in part, to CCPS’s efforts to “restrict” students in school, even after a disciplinary action has been taken, rather than suspend or expel students.

“I think that the Standards of Student Conduct read a lot better after the changes” Murphy said. “We plan to ask the assistant principals to go over the entire document more closely this summer to add policy references for specific offenses and to make sure that everything in it has been reviewed.”

Murphy said that the Standards of Student Conduct had also been transcribed into Spanish.

After clarifying its student suspension policy, the School Board moved to implement a suspension of unrestricted tuition payment for students that enroll in online courses.

Dr. Murphy told the School Board that Section 6-38 of the division’s policies ensured that student’s “will not be charged tuition for any virtual online course.” Murphy said that the policy was a carryover from times when access to virtual courses was limited but with today’s proliferation of online opportunities potential costs associated with such a tuition payment guarantee could be significant.

“We are the only school division in Virginia that covers unlimited online tuition for free” Murphy said. “This policy opens us up to incredible fiscal responsibility because we don’t have the funds to cover every student who may want to take an online course.”

In addition to conduct and online tuition, the School Board also approved a not-to-exceed expenditure of $52,510 for software that will help track performance and achievement of Clarke County students. Known as longitudinal data analysis, the software from the SunGard Corporation will allow administrators to correlate curriculum, assessments and other student-specific data that impacts learning success over time. Educators can then use the longitudinal data trends to plan identify and address skills gaps and other needs to best meet each student’s lifelong learning goals.

Funding for the SunGard software was obtained through a federal grant written by alternative education liaison Jill Sowers and will be procured through a Suffolk County Public Schools purchasing contract that allows participation by other Virginia school divisions.

The School Board unanimously approved all three actions, with Jennifer Weliiver (Berryville) absent, before entering closed session to consider personnel matters.