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Schools Adjust To Gain Accreditation

Mount Vernon Woods takes advantage of its computer center.

This article is the second part in a series of four articles focusing on the programs that several schools are undertaking to improve the SOL scores of their students.

As with other Title I schools in Fairfax County, Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School faces the challenge of dealing with language and economic disparity.

“Our staff works very hard. We would like to get academic support from the parents, but there are economic and language barriers. We try to take kids and expand their knowledge. It’s hard when you work so hard and don’t get results,” said Reginald Romaine, principal.

That result he’s seeking is full state accreditation. Mount Vernon Woods missed the science benchmark by four points and so are considered “accredited with warning.” They met or exceeded all the other benchmarks.

To help overcome some of the language boundaries, Mount Vernon Woods offers a program called Partners in Print. Here, parents with children in preschool through second grade come together with their students 4-5 times a year to learn reading and writing strategies to work with their children at home. Romaine said that they also offer adult education courses for parents at the school.

At the beginning of the year, Mount Vernon Woods holds an SOL meeting for all the parents; it was through that meeting that Abderrahin Lahlou learned that he could request the previous year’s test packets. Lahlou’s son, Adel, received perfect scores on all four of his SOL tests last year. He received a 600 in his third-grade English, math, history and science SOL tests. Adel’s brother, Mohamed, a sixth-grader, received a pass/proficient score.

Abderrahin acknowledges the efforts of the staff and administration at Mount Vernon Woods, and in an earlier article, said, “Mr. Romaine — he’s everywhere. He makes sure that everything is running well. The teachers [including Adel’s third-grade teacher, Tynika Lytle] work as a team,” Abderrahin said.

BOTH MOUNT VERNON WOODS and Hybla Valley Elementary Schools have already started offering SOL remedial classes. Romaine said that they’re not just for students who didn’t pass the tests, but also for those students who are average and need additional support to sustain them. While these classes are optional, Romaine said that he makes it clear that he wants to students to take them.

They give the Testpak — practice SOL tests — twice a year to third and fifth graders. The teachers and administrators assess the results and can tell which types of questions the students are struggling with.

“We get a breakdown of areas, and make sure that those areas are covered,” Romaine said. “In third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, we work specifically with SOLs.”

They are also planning to bring in Jack Greene, a science resource specialist, to work with the students.

TWO ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS for the students are the Computer Club and the Homework Club. The Computer Learning Centers Partnership is a cooperative effort run by the Fairfax County of Partnerships that allows students access to computers and county staff four days a week from 3-5 p.m. It is staffed with county employees who help students with the computer.

“We focus on fourth, fifth and sixth graders," said Maritza Mulready runs the center. "We teach them the internet, Windows and office applications. The advantage is that they have access to computers. A lot of them don’t have computers at home.”

Students are allowed to sign up for one day a week and work on different lessons. The lesson this week was on Microsoft’s Access program. They were setting up a program charting the planets.

“We have good attendance here,” Mulready said. Helping her was Jehan Marshall, a county employee. Students from George Mason University volunteer their time as well.

Next door to the computer lab is a room where children come for homework club. Here, they can get help with any subject from teachers and other staff. This week, Rebecca Brians was helping Brian Gramajo with his spelling. Fernando Torres was finished with his homework so he was playing a video game. “This is our reward for finishing,” he said.