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Striving Toward SOL Success

London Towne gets provisionally accredited.

Of the 20 original Project Excel schools identified by the Fairfax County school system as needing to bring up their SOL scores, London Towne Elementary is one of seven designated as "provisionally accredited," but requiring improvement.

Its pass rates in English, math, history and science were 73, 68, 74 and 65 percent, respectively. But the Centreville school is already hard at work to do better next time.

"It's definitely the focus of our school to improve our SOL scores and become fully accredited," said Principal Andy Camarda. "It's very important to involve the teachers. We're bringing [them] together to collaborate on the best instructional practices to stretch all learners."

Although achieving passing scores in English and history, London Towne is still not accredited in math and science. Just third- and fifth-graders take the SOLs but, said Camarda, "We look at it as a schoolwide effort and commitment, and we're working in all areas."

He said the school will also give special attention to the students "that we could get over the hump." It will be achieved via after-school remediation and additional, small-group instruction using mentors and tutors coming from London Towne's business partnerships.

"I've already seen teachers staying after school to provide kids with extra help," said Camarda. "And part of it is just making sure that it continues to be a stable, smooth school with a positive climate."

Regarding ESOL students, he said London Towne has made lots of outreach efforts to their parents and even had a back-to-school night just for them, with interpreters explaining the curriculum and school procedures. And although his school definitely has some work ahead of it to boost its SOL scores, Camarda is confident that it can do it.

"Most of all, I see a tremendous dedication in our staff toward making it work," he said. "And that dedication and positive attitude will help [everyone] reach that goal."

Camarda noted that the SOL scores provide just one snapshot of the school and don't necessarily reflect the quality of its teaching. But, he added, "We know they're important and we'll do everything we can to get fully accredited — and, hopefully, we'll see immediate results."

Actually, he said, London Towne came very close to it in the last tests. "Just a few more points in science and math and we'll be fully accredited," he said. "But what's most important to me is that all our students are learning and all [of them] are being stretched. We offer amazing opportunities for our kids at London Towne, and we focus on strengths."