Central Virginia’s Students Enjoy a Quality Education in Local Public Schools

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Central Virginia’s Students Enjoy a Quality Education in Local Public Schools

Welcome to our public schools feature where we highlight the quality education available to students in Charlottesville city and surrounding counties.  If you have a family and are considering a move to central Virginia, or if you’re planning to relocate from one county to another, and are wondering about what each county school system has to offer, you will find much of what you need here plus links to more information if you want to explore further.

Albemarle County Public Schools
The Albemarle County Public School Division’s strategic plan lists one goal—to have every student graduate having actively mastered the lifelong-learning skills they need to succeed as 21st century learners, workers and citizens.

This past year, the division’s on-time graduation rate reached 94.3 percent, higher than the statewide rate for every one of the nation’s 50 states. Nearly seven out of ten graduates received Advanced Studies Diplomas, well above the 50 percent rate for all school divisions across the Commonwealth.  The drop-out rate for Albemarle County public school students was 2.3 percent, less than one-half of the 5.2 percent statewide rate and far below the most recently reported national rate of seven percent.

The foundation for this consistent outperformance by local students can be found in a 2015 national survey by Niche, an education assessment organization.  Each year, Niche evaluates more than 100,000 public and private schools and school divisions across the country.  The evaluation includes a comprehensive analysis of performance data and incorporates the views of more than 27 million parents and students to determine its rankings.

Top Two Percent of Nation
In 2015, Albemarle County Public Schools placed within the top two percent of all school divisions in the United States.  In three categories, academics, educational outcomes and teaching, the division earned an A+ rating and in four other areas, administration & policies, extracurricular programs, sports & fitness and culture & diversity programs, the division received an A rating.

In a companion study, all three of the division’s comprehensive high schools were ranked within the top five percent of all high schools in the nation.

The pathway to these results at the high school level is formed at the very earliest grades based upon five objectives adopted by the School Board.  They include engaging every student, implementing balanced assessments of student learning, improving achievement by improving opportunities, establishing and expanding partnerships with the business community and other organizations, and optimizing the value and impact of all resources.

Student engagement regularly is addressed through the use of the most innovative technologies and instructional methods in the classroom to empower students to complete self-designed projects.  This hands-on approach to learning emphasizes not only the acquisition of knowledge but its application.

Students develop problem-solving skills in such areas as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.  One such example at the end of the 2015-16 school year involved middle school students who volunteered to design, develop and complete a project in which a weather balloon soared to more than 100,000 feet to collect data and photograph the earth’s curvature.

Balanced assessments represent a forceful step away from rote learning and evaluate students on the basis of the skills they bring to a project, whether printing out components on a 3D printer to assemble an invention, recreating an historical artifact to develop a deeper understanding of history, science or literature or writing and performing an original musical or dramatic piece.

The division’s commitment to eliminating opportunity gaps among students resulted in its becoming one of the first public school divisions in the nation to adopt a plan to eliminate the digital divide for all school families.  Re-purposing its FCC-allocated spectrum, the division is providing free broadband access to the homes of students who have not previously had such access, often because of their geographic location.  Within a short period of time, all students will be able to fully access the Internet at home for their academic research and to further their project-based learning needs.

Through its three high school academies for Math, Engineering & Science, Health & Medical Sciences and Environmental Studies, the division is building strong connections with local businesses and service organizations, more closely aligning curriculum with the county and nation’s professional requirements.

Bond Referendum
In recent years, the school division has increased its operational efficiencies through such innovative initiatives as energy conservation measures that have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost avoidance, new contracting guidelines that have reduced expenditures by nearly a quarter-million dollars and consolidated bus routes that have lowered fuel costs by millions of dollars.

In a school division continuing to add students as the result of the county’s sustained growth pattern, nearly one-third of all Albemarle County Public School students currently attend over-crowded schools.  If there are no additions to the current capacity of schools, in a few years, that percentage will exceed 50 percent.

In the summer of 2016, the School Board requested the Board of Supervisors approve a school bond referendum for the November 2016 ballot to finance a series of projects that would benefit every school in the division and reduce over-crowded conditions.  If the bond referendum is approved by the voters and the Board of Supervisors, it would lower the financing and administrative costs of these capital projects by more than $1 million compared to the current public borrowing method.

Augusta County Public Schools
Augusta County Public Schools has a comprehensive educational program for students from preschool through high school. The school system takes in approximately 10,500 students from around the county. Augusta County Public Schools operate 20 schools including five high schools, four middle schools, and eleven elementary schools.  Additionally, the division operates a regional career and technical center, a regional governor’s school, a regional special education program and a regional Head Start program.

Currently the division employs approximately 900 teachers and offers advanced curriculum in language arts, science, foreign language, mathematics, social studies, physical education, and fine arts with college credit available. The schools offer a program for gifted and talented students in the areas of language arts, mathematics, art, music, and drama as well as education programs in agriculture, business, family and consumer sciences, technology, trade and industry. Extensive media services and connections to the Internet are provided to all students and personnel. Summer school enrichment and remedial programs are available as well as special education programs to provide a continuum of services for students with special needs.  We welcome you to visit our website at www.augusta.k12.va.us.

City of Charlottesville Public Schools
The City of Charlottesville values education highly, and the Charlottesville City School Division offers the best in curriculum and community. The City schools are comprised of six elementary schools (preschool-4); Walker Upper Elementary School (5-6); Buford Middle School (7-8) and Charlottesville High School (9-12). As of October 2015, enrollment for preK-12 was 4,379 students.

Neighborhood schools with a global orientation expose students to diverse experiences, viewpoints, and opportunities—preparing them not only for post-secondary education but for life. Small class sizes promote individual attention in a collaborative climate.  With extraordinary fine arts, the latest STEM technologies, a computer for every student, and more, the City schools are White House-certified to be “future-ready” and a charter member of the League of Innovative Schools.

Charlottesville City Schools is known for its commitment to the fine arts. Just this year, the CHS Orchestra and both the Buford Middle School Band and Orchestra all earned Grand Champion in statewide or multi-state competitions.  Art and music begins in the elementary schools, and fourth-graders even participate in a year-long dance program with the Richmond Ballet.  From fifth grade on, students can be active in art, band, choir, orchestra, theatre, and special programs such as dance or step teams. Students also learn about the arts through regular field trips to live performances as well as school visits from guest artists and authors.

New science and engineering labs at Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School support innovative STEM education.  Buford’s science and engineering program is a cutting-edge collaboration between the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Smithsonian Institution, and other area school divisions. CHS offers every possible AP class in computer science, engineering, math, and science, and the school’s science club regularly wins honors in state and international competitions.  In the 2016-17 school year, “iSTEM” teachers will work in all the Charlottesville schools—even at the elementary level—to lay a strong, hands-on foundation for science, technology, engineering, and math.

The Charlottesville schools are part of their community and the world! In the past year, CCS students won acclaim in art, athletics, debate, engineering, geography, history, math, music, science, and writing—and that’s simply the list from Buford Middle School! Students begin studying Spanish in first grade, and by the time they attend CHS, they can choose from Chinese, French, German, Latin, Spanish, and even American Sign Language. Student field trips and competitions take students to places like China, Europe, New York, San Francisco, and more. Charlottesville students excel in all areas and they go on to attend the world’s best colleges and universities.

CHS offers approximately 30 college-level (Advanced Placement and dual enrollment) courses, and the school is the only regional school on The Washington Post’s list of “Challenge Schools” that encourage a wide variety of students to take AP classes and tests. CHS students far outperform their state and national peers on AP and SAT tests. In 2015-16, Charlottesville City Schools was one of just 37 school divisions across the state to have all schools be fully accredited due to their strong performance on state “standards of learning” tests.

Nearly 300 students attend Charlottesville City Schools by choice, either in person or through the extensive virtual education program at CHS. Learn more!  Find the schools on the web at charlottesvilleschools.org or on Facebook and Twitter at @CvilleSchools. To arrange for a visit, call your local school or 434-245-2400.

Fluvanna County Public Schools
The Fluvanna County Public Schools system is comprised of six schools:  West Central Primary (preK-K), Central Elementary ( 1st – 2nd), Carysbrook Elementary (3rd-4th), Fluvanna Middle School, and Fluvanna County High School. All of Fluvanna’s schools are fully accredited. Fluvanna County Public Schools will:

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Student enrollment is a little over 3,500 students with a targeted student-teacher ratio of 22:1. The school system offers a variety of student programs including special education, gifted and talented education, career and technical education, and alternative education. Parental involvement is high, as is the school system’s expectation of its students.

Greene County Public Schools
Greene County Public Schools (GCPS) educates 3,113 children in grades Pre-K through 12 in one primary school, two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one technical school.  Greene County Public Schools has five Nationally Board Certified Teachers; 51 percent of the division’s professional staff has a masters or doctoral degree, while 99 percent of its professional teaching staff is considered “highly qualified.”

GCPS has a lot to be proud of:
The class of 2016 had 38 Early College Scholars.

  • 72 percent of the class of 2016 will continue their formal education after high school.
  • 9 percent will take the skills learned at our Technical Education Center and move into the workforce.
  • 6 percent of the Class of 2016 earned their Associates Degree.
  • 74 Students are enrolled in the Early College Scholars Program for 2016-2017.
  • The class of 2016 earned an impressive $1,520,879 in scholarships.
  • Charlotte Berry and Tracy Morton were recognized as Educators of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year.
  • 4 AP Scholars and 1 student with AP Honors with Distinction at William Monroe High School.
  •  62 percent of the class of 2016 earned an Advanced Studies diploma.
  • 45 percent of seniors earned at least one Industry Certification at the Greene County Technical Center/William Monroe High School.
  • 94 percent of students from William Monroe High School graduated on-time in 2016.
  • Ruckersville Elementary School has a 2016 Distinguished Teacher from the National Council for Geographic Education.
  •  Three students from William Monroe Middle School competed in the National History Day Competition and were State 1st place winners for their presentations.  14 students placed in the top two positions at the State tournament.
  • State Runner-Up for the William Monroe High School Baseball team in 2016
  • 13 State HOSA competition award winners from the Greene County Technical Education Center
  • Local HOSA chapter won the Advisor to the Executive Council Award
  • $50,000 awarded for Early College Scholarships to help fund students in need
  • In 2016 adopted a 5 year strategic plan titled “Innovate 2021” that focuses on Innovation and Academic Excellence, Safe and Secure Learning Environments, Communication and Collaboration with Stakeholders, and Efficient Utilization of Resources.
  • Participating in a comprehensive and inclusive Facility Study with VMDO architects and the community to plan for the long term future facility needs to educate the students of Greene County.
  • Implemented a one to one Chromebook initiative in several grades throughout the school division.
  • Implemented a STEM program at the elementary levels that includes engineering activities and coding of aerial Drones.

Louisa County Public Schools
Louisa County Public Schools (LCPS) currently has six schools: one high school (9-12), one middle school (6-8), and four elementary schools (pk-5). The building of Moss-Nuckols Elementary School, the county’s fourth elementary school, is completed and the school opened in August 2010.

The division also has an alternative education center for students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The high school has an extensive Career and Technical Education department and access to a Governor’s School. All LCPS schools are currently accredited by the Virginia Department of Education, having met or exceeded the standards required on the SOL assessments.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the school division employed approximately 390 teachers, and served about 4,850 students.  The division strives to maintain a 21:1 student/teacher ratio at the elementary level and a 25:1 student/teacher ratio at the middle and high school levels.

In May of  2016 a total of 364 students received their diplomas at the high school’s seventy-sixth annual commencement service. Approximately 36 percent of these students planned to attend a 4-year college, 32 percent planned to attend a 2-year college, 28 percent planned to work and 4 percent planned to enlist in the military.

Madison County Public Schools
Pride.  In all, Madison is known not so much by “schools” as by educational families—students surrounded by caring, thoughtful parents and community members who expect graduates to have earned a top-notch education.  Our students attend Virginia’s and the nation’s top schools and enter the workforce exceptionally well prepared.  This great feat is accomplished by a caring community centered on what we call “Madison Pride”—the drive to provide children an absolutely remarkable education and a plethora of opportunities.

Schools.  For nearly two decades, student enrollment has hovered around 2,000 students in four schools: Madison Primary School (PK-2), Waverly Yowell Elementary School (3-5), William H. Wetsel Middle School (6-8), and Madison County High School (9-12).

Exceptional Education.  Madison County Public Schools (MCPS), a student-centered and community-supported school division, insures a superior education in a changing world.  Our vision is to build on excellence to exceed community expectations—to be the best.  In Madison, we are proud of excellent schools, which focus on traditional methods and progressive programs in our never-ending cycle of improvement.  This is why we are regarded as a superior school division in the Commonwealth.

We are committed to helping students acquire the strong values to deal effectively with important intellectual, ethical, and social problems.

Responding to community, parent, and workforce expectations, MCPS aims to educate children to be prepared for good citizenry and life-long learning.  Twenty-first century skills require that tomorrow’s workforce be adept at technology, excellent communicators, responsible employees, and physically fit and active.  To this end, we want every secondary student to take Dual Enrollment, Advanced Placement, or earn an Industry Certification prior to graduation as well as a foreign language.  And, we encourage all students to be scholar-athletes or scholar-performers.

MCPS embraces the notion of global awareness.  We aim to provide world awareness through foreign language, current events, classes in culture and diversity, as well as K-12 division wide studies on a central question.  We support enrichment experiences for all students to engage them with the world beyond Madison and by developing national and international connections through virtual exchanges with national and international sister schools.  We fully support the incorporation of cultures and current events of local, national and international communities at every grade level.

Equally, we support the notion of community citizenry and awareness.  MCPS embraces our local community that is rich in history and tradition.  Our landscape boasts preeminent countryside—mountain life and flatlands, rich with agriculture, viniculture, forestry, and pastureland.  We expect students to know our Madison community and natural wealth as we encourage field trips, community service projects and service learning.  In our preeminent countryside, students have the opportunity to experience and learn from our amazing location.

Additional information can be found on the division website at: www.madisonschools.k12.va.us

Orange County Public Schools
Over 97 percent of the teachers employed by Orange County Public Schools are highly qualified.  This fall they will educate approximately 4,830 students in nine schools, including six elementary, two middle schools and one high school. Average pupil/teacher ratios are 1:20 in elementary; 1:24 in middle; and 1:23 in high school. All schools in the system are accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.

OCPS has over 803 identified gifted and talented students. The division also offers a summer scholars program for enrichment as well as Head Start, Early Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative. OCPS utilizes the School Messenger system to notify parents, students, and staff of school-related events.

318 students graduated from OCPS in 2015, of which 152 students received an Advanced Studies Diploma.  Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment and Distant Learning opportunities are offered by OCPS.

Approximately 76 percent of this year’s graduating class is continuing their education.

Nearly 86 percent of our graduates enrolled in a Career & Technical Education Course during middle or high school.  In addition, advanced math & foreign language instruction is offered.


Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.

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