Improving Education While Coping with Growth

Improving Education While Coping with Growth

Loudoun County Public Schools continue to expand its educational programs and its number of facilities.

Loudoun County has built 23 new schools in the past five years, including the three newest buildings in Ashburn, Leesburg and Aldie. Another 16 schools are planned in the six years.

“We have been able to improve the quality of education in the face of all the growth we have had,” said Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of schools. “We have demonstrated this by the ever-improving student performance on multiple assessments, not only SOL tests and SAT scores, but other measures of student performance that is as important as tests.”

The school district has placed a growing importance on giving students the skills needed to obtain jobs by the end of high school or to move onto higher education.

Hatrick attributes this to the community’s support for quality education. “They not only want quality school buildings, but they also want an outstanding educational program for their children.

“We have an increased emphasis on student achievement across the board, whether we are talking about students who are limited English proficient, come from poverty or have other impediments in their success in school.”

Loudoun also provides gifted-education programs and has expanded participation in the advanced placement courses. “We are involving more students attempting college work while still in high school,” Hatrick said. “We are challenging students in positive ways to the best of their abilities."

With Loudoun as the fastest growing county in the nation, the need for new schools and teachers grows. Since 2002, the school district has added approximately 500 new teachers each year. This summer, 630 teachers were hired after a worldwide recruiting effort that included 41 new instructors from the Visiting International Faculty Program.

The School Board voted in June to reduce the average high-school classroom size from 26.6 to 26.1 or half a student. It also reduced the average middle-school size from 22 to 21 students. The elementary-school average of 22.5 students remained the same.

A number of new programs are being introduced or expanded this fall, including Steps to Literacy, a new mid-term assessment called benchmark testing and a different kind of study hall. All first- through fifth-graders will have an opportunity to learn Spanish. Only a portion of the elementary-school children took the subject prior to this year.

Hatrick said the school district welcomes the help it receives in its quest to keep improving the quality of education.

Loudoun County Public Schools has formed a partnership with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which spent $300,000 this summer training and equipping middle schools for a science course that is expected to become a national model. The institute also donated $98,000 in scholarships to 14 seniors. It has agreed to open a science academy at Dominion High School and has pledged $1 million per year in support of Loudoun’s schools.

The school district has more than 400 business partners, including the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. America Online, Lockheed-Martin and the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.