News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dogwood Elementary Off Double-Secret Probation; Other Reston Schools On 'The List'

After a school year during which the highest level of sanctions of any Fairfax County school hung over its staff's head, Dogwood Elementary School is off double-secret probation.

Dogwood Elementary has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as defined by the No Child Left Behind criteria, based on last year's Virginia Standards of Learning testing scores.

Previous years saw Dogwood Elementary miss Adequate Yearly Progress in one or two categories, but this year Dogwood students tested strong across the board.
Meanwhile, Forest Edge Elementary, Hunters Woods Elementary, and Lake Anne Elementary did not make AYP this year, though they are not Title 1 schools and don't face the same potential sanctions that threatened Dogwood, which included replacing administrators or allowing students to transfer.

Terraset and Sunrise Valley both made AYP. And of course, the "astronaut schools" did fine -- which isn't surprising, since standardized testing, as a rule, often tells you more about the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students attending the school than its overall quality. Which makes Dogwood's accomplishment all the more remarkable, especially since it missed AYP by literally a handful of students in past years. Good on them.


  1. Although I don't like teaching to the test, the SOL's are the only thing that made administrators sit up and take care of my child. The teachers just kept making school easier and easier for him and expecting less and less. Then he failed his SOL's. Only then did my insistence that something was wrong have meaning. Now, thanks to the great teachers and a pro-active principal in a different school, he is doing well and as a result is passing his tests advanced.

    I would like to see stats on year on year improvements for the same students . . . did the kids that failed 4th grade reading make significant progress in 5th grade? That is the real story.

  2. I don't think they do the SOL tests every year.

    Anyway, gawd bless the little darlings at Dogweed and I hope they're as lucky next year.

  3. 5:12

    You are so right. What's sad is that a student only has to get a 70% to pass SOL. That was a D in FCPS until last year. Now it's a C-, I think.

    Our means of measuring academic progress for schools and teachers is a misguided joke that induces all kinds of distortive behavior by FCPS beyond teaching to the test. I'm pretty sure FCPS cannot even answer your question.

    As one example, kids in very grade tell me that the last month or 5 weeks of school after the SOLs consist mainly of watching a succession of movies that have little or no relevance to subject matter.


    While there may be exceptions, most kids are taking an SOL every year through high school.

  4. During my public school years, I would have pulled the entire school down because I would have refused to take them or just colored in cute patterns on the ScanTron sheets. For me, standardized tests were just a bad joke that got visited on us all too often, and was taken far too seriously by a bunch of self-important educational establishment buttmunches. I'm still not convinced that I wasn't right then, and it's probably still as valid as an opinion now.

    Anyway, I type corrected.

  5. Don't forget Sunrise Valley ES -- where the only kids of color are not from section 8 housing.

  6. A key thing to look at in Dogwood's test scores is comparing a cohort across several years. In order for scores to go from the 70's to the 90's, a lot of children had to make progress.

    As for individual students making progress, that's tricky to report right now without violating confidentiality. We're hoping that becomes a part of the NCLB reauthorization - in fact, Virginia will be piloting this soon.

    For starters, you could look at the percentage of students getting an 'advanced pass' as opposed to just passing - this is on the school report card. Dogwood has shown significant growth in this area as well. So, they're not just getting kids to the minimum - they're starting to drive kids to excel.

    August 17, 2010 10:19 PM

  7. Standardized tests . . . I loved coloring in the little circles.

  8. I know what a good teacher is. When every student, even the guttersnipes like me, lean forward hanging on their every word, when they not only teach but inspire, that's your good teacher. These are the ones harmed by standardized testing. The tests lock them in step with the dull-normals.

    There was a study, I wish I could remember the reference, in which a long-term track of life outcomes produced an anomolous result. Far too few of the kids studied ended up in jail. Puzzled, some scientist attained the brilliant idea of asking them. "According to your socieo-economic profile you should be a petty thug instead of the upright citizen you are. How come?" The answers produced a common theme, "Well, there was this teacher..."

    Unfortunately, I can count the good teachers I have known on my fingers. The 80% or more who are just public babysitters - to them the SOL is a godsend. They may not teach much, but at least the little buggers end up learning what is on the tests!

  9. One of the things Dogwood was known for was year round schools. Guess what children are no longer needed to help with farm work but instead are sent off to camps or laze about or get in trouble. If we really wanted to raise children's academics and reduce teenage gangs we would have year round schools coupled to school till 5 o'clock like I understand the French do.

  10. "Terraset and Sunrise Valley both made AYP. And of course, the "astronaut schools" did fine -- which isn't surprising, since standardized testing, as a rule, often tells you more about the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students attending the school than its overall quality."

    1. It should have been "and of course Sunrise Valley". Socioeconomically it is the best school in Reston by far - 6% free lunches vs 9% in Armstrong and 10% in Aldrin. No wonder, it is a GT center and mostly serves Oakton and Vienna. If only the principal were not so... let's say "egalitarian" and actually challenged the kids who can take the challenge, houses in McLean would not be worth twice as much.
    2. "Socioeconomic backgrounds" is THE best predictor of what the school is like, how much parents push their kids to learn and the teachers to teach, and weather the student body is oriented towards academics and success or just hangs in there. As much as I would love to find a more politically correct way of saying it, I can't: fruits don't fall far for the tree.

  11. anon 12:46, your words would have more impact without the laundry list of grammatical errors. Maybe if you'd attended a school that was less "egalitarian" someone would have taken the time to teach you proper English.

  12. Fruits may not fall far FROM the tree. However, when fruits fall FOR anything, it's usually FOR each other.


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