Teachers and Google, the future of Yancey, and county test scores


Laura Floyd, Brandy Jenkins, and Matt Wilson take a bus tour of Charlottesville’s schools during new teacher orientation. Photo: Tim Shea. Laura Floyd, Brandy Jenkins, and Matt Wilson take a bus tour of Charlottesville’s schools during new teacher orientation. Photo: Tim Shea.

Our regular Education Beat reporting is the result of a partnership with the nonprofit community news platform Charlottesville Tomorrow, which covers growth, development, public education, and local politics. 

City teachers train on Google apps

Eighteen representatives from each of Charlottesville’s schools last week participated in Google Boot Camp, a two-day professional development session aimed at integrating more of Google’s educational features into the classroom—knowledge that will prove useful when students receive Google accounts at the start of school, Coordinator of Technology Integration Maria Lewis said.

Instruction focused on using features of Google’s browser Chrome, such as Google Drive to create and submit documents and presentations.

Carmella Johnson, a fourth grade teacher at Greenbrier Elementary School, said the amount of Google’s offerings was intimidating at first, but that she plans to utilize Harpara, an interface that organizes the submission and distribution of assignments students complete using Google applications.

Additionally, Johnson said, Google Forms will allow her to get student responses to pre-assessments back quickly, which will help her tailor each day’s instruction to each student’s individual needs.

A pair of educators from all nine city schools attended, and following the training, Lewis said, those educators would serve as specialists in their home schools.

Yancey workgroup suggests leveraging interest into funding

A volunteer group charged with finding new uses for an underutilized Esmont school offered the beginnings of a plan at last Wednesday’s Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting: Make the facility home to a grant-funded inter-agency community center outside of school hours.

Due to low enrollment at Yancey Elementary, both the Albemarle School Board and the Board of Supervisors charged the Yancey Elementary workgroup with finding additional uses for the building.

Since April, the 12-member workgroup has gathered input from southern Albemarle citizens as to what services would benefit the community. Members have also met with possible partner organizations, including the YMCA, the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, and Region 10, all of whom expressed interest.

Workgroup co-chair Tim Lewis last week said that pursuing grant funding for an inter-agency community center would be more successful collectively, rather than if each agency attempted to raise its own funds. The challenge the proposed agency will face, Lewis said, is balancing which services the center would offer.

The workgroup has formed a finance sub-committee and will provide a final report in December.

County high schoolers above average but below predictions

Albemarle County’s high school students didn’t score as well on the College and Workforce Readiness Assessment as officials would have liked, Assistant Superintendent Matt Haas said last week, but they outperformed an average score by college freshmen who took the test at the end of their first year.

Out of a possible score of 1500, county students’ mean score was 1074. The mean score of college freshmen was 1050. Prior to sitting the CWRA, students took an academic pre-test, which predicted a mean score of 1146 in Albemarle.

“The fact that our students were expected to score higher on the CWRA is proof that the division is preparing our students well academically,” School Board Chair Steve Koleszar said.

The CWRA is a task-based method of assessing learning that evaluates a student’s critical, analytical and creative thinking skills. Albemarle County began piloting the test with freshman and seniors in the spring of 2012.

County Schools spokesman Phil Giaramita said that the division now has a benchmark score. The next step, Haas said, is to familiarize teachers with the test’s question and rubric.—Tim Shea

BULLETIN BOARD: Open house schedules

  • Charlottesville City Schools: August 19. Elementary school hours are 1-3pm; Walker Upper Elementary, 3-5pm; Buford Middle School, 5-7pm; Charlottesville High School (grades 10-12), 4-6pm. CHS’ freshman orientation runs from 5:15-7pm on August 20.
  • Albemarle County Public Schools: August 15-20. Times and dates vary for each school. For school-specific information, call the school’s main office or click on the Calendar link at http://esb.k12albemarle.org, and select August 15.
  • CATEC: August 14, 5-7pm, including registration meeting. More information and class offerings available at www.catec.org/catec.
Brandi Roberson, 1st Grade Teacher, Jackson-Via Elementary School. Photo: Charlottesville City Schools.

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR: Brandi Roberson, 1st Grade Teacher, Jackson-Via Elementary School

Q: What has your classroom experience taught you that studying education could not have prepared you for?

A: The two biggest things I’ve learned are balancing school and personal time and being flexible to change things around in my room to meet the needs of my students. I realized when I did carve time for myself I came in more energized and refreshed, which gave me the momentum to be flexible and open to changing things around and incorporating new ideas. I learned from this year that I was more flexible than I thought and found a lot of enjoyment in trying to find what worked best for each student. It became almost like a puzzle to find what clicked for each individual.

Q: What teaching adjustments do you plan to make moving forward?

A: Focusing on centers for math and reading and really tailoring them to meet each student’s needs to improve achievement in the room, and incorporating Responsive Classroom, a positive classroom management approach to encourage safety and success with student achievement. After taking the class over the summer, I am very excited to bring in morning meetings and a classroom set up for success.