September Letter to Our Families

Dear GCPS Families,

On behalf of the division instructional leadership team, it is with tremendous enthusiasm that I welcome you to the 2013-14 school year. The positive energy in all five of our schools has been contagious these past four weeks – and I trust your child(ren)’s opening days have been exceptional.

The intention of this letter is to clearly communicate our division’s focus on engaging, meaningful instruction, as well as to express our commitment to supporting our students, families, and school-community. Our team collaborates daily in an effort to continuously build the strongest, most well-rounded instructional program possible – and we’re always just a phone call or email away.

The most important instructional leaders in any division work directly with our students: the education professionals in our schools. The daily design and delivery of instruction happens in our classrooms – and we have some of the most talented, dedicated professionals in the Commonwealth.

At the division level we have an equally committed team that works directly with our teachers and building administrators with the focus on maximizing the potential of every student. It’s important to us that our families know who we are and know that we’re always here to help:

Mrs. Debbie Beasley, Director of Special Education and Student
       Services, dbeasley@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5625
Mr. Thomas DeWeerd, Director of Technology and School
     Administration, tdeweerd@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5627
Dr. Stephen Geyer, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction,
     sgeyer@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5609
Dr. Peter Gretz, Assistant Superintdent of Business Operations,
     pgretz@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5605
Mr. John Hendron, Supervisor of Instructional Technology,
      jhendron@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5623
Dr. James Lane, Superintendent, jlane@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-   
     5601
Ms. Raye Rector, Coordinator of Gifted and Federal Programs,
     rrector@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5610
Mr. Bruce Watson, Director of Career and Technical Education,
     bwatson@glnd.k12.va.us, (804) 556-5613

Technology as an Integral Part of the Instructional Environment

Goochland’s instructional technology program has long been known to be one of the strongest in the state. Our teacher and administrator weblogs helped pioneer digital communication in schools across Virginia (http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/). The division’s project-based G21 program has received national attention and has since served as a model for our regional neighbors. Our current focus on technology-supported personalized learning (i.e. 1:1 mobile devices, educational software that individualizes opportunities for students, and our “Bring Your Own Device” pilot) is helping to ensure technology is seamlessly integrated into our students’ learning environment.

Technology plays an important role in almost every career field. We are always looking around the next corner to ensure we’re giving our students the opportunity to compete on the national and global stage.

A Thoughtful, Balanced Approach to Assessment

Virginia’s public school students face a minimum of 34 “high stakes” tests during their thirteen-year public school career under the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment program. Additionally, students have traditionally encountered countless high stakes practice tests in preparation for the state assessments.

While we embrace the accountability features of the state and federal system, we know that the assessment program falls short in providing the depth and breadth of information teachers, parents, and students need in order to maximize individual growth. We believe we’ve created a better way.

Last spring we released our Balanced Assessment Project, and I encourage our families to review it when you have a few minutes. It can be accessed from our division Website and at: http://www.glnd.k12.va.us/resources/Balanced_Project_Final.pdf

This fall we began measuring individual student growth in the areas of literacy and mathematics using Northwest Evaluation Association’s highly regarded, nationally normed assessment, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). In short, this assessment will be administered to our K-8 students three times each year (approximately 60 min per administration) and is “computer adaptive.” This means that the assessment adapts to individual student responses: as questions are answered correctly, the level of subsequent questions becomes more challenging; when a question is answered incorrectly, the assessment adapts with less difficult questions. This methodology, along with the nationally normed nature of the assessment, makes MAP one of the most effective, accurate, predictive measures of individual student progress. (SOL tests measure achievement, are built on common minimum proficiency, and do not measure individual growth.) Teachers and parents will begin to receive data that is specific to their child’s progress, along with traditional measures of achievement related to state benchmarks.

While we are introducing growth measures this school year, please understand we are not simply adding more assessments. Due to the comprehensive nature of the MAP test in grades K-8, we will be eliminating more than 80% of what have come to be known as “division marking period tests” or “MP tests.” The introduction of growth assessments, along with integrated performance tasks (learn more by reading our Balanced Assessment Project document), will actually result in a net loss (nearly 40%) in assessments across our K-12 testing profile.

Responsiveness to Student Needs

The Department of Special Education and Student Services is always focused on timely response to our students’ evolving and exceptional needs. During the months of June and July, several special education teachers and instructional assistants participated in professional development opportunities that focused on providing effective instruction and behavioral supports to students with autism spectrum disorders.  The team also participated in training involving wrap-around service coordination for students in need and revisions to the state’s graduation requirements for students with disabilities.  Our Special Education Parent Advisory Committee meets four times a year to provide resources and discuss topics relevant to parents of students with disabilities.  The team’s next meeting is set for Thursday, December 5 at 6:00 pm at Goochland Middle School.

Career and Technical Education Renaissance

Beginning in January 2012, Goochland County Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs received renewed interest and emphasis from county and school leaders. Realizing there were some missed opportunities in the CTE/STEM arena for GCPS students, plans and actions were implemented to increase course offerings at Goochland Middle School and Goochland High School and to build a STEM framework within our three elementary schools.

A survey of GMS/GHS parents and students revealed a desire to have access to a wider range of CTE/STEM courses; as a result, eleven new courses have been added for the 2013-14 school year. Our high school students will now be able to choose from new courses in engineering, computer-assisted drafting (CAD), building construction, introduction to natural resources (agriculture), fashion design, and interior design. Our middle school students will have new choices in in the fields of agriscience, pre-engineering, inventions and innovations, and digital input. Student requests for these new courses has been overwhelming: we have planned for a twenty-six percent increase in the CTE enrollment for the 2013-14 school year.

The enthusiasm and growth in Goochland County Public Schools’ CTE/STEM programs is extraordinary and has created a strong foundation for new initiatives to give our students the 21st century skills necessary for success beyond high school. The next CTE Advisory meeting will take place at 6:00 pm on Monday, October 21 in the school administration building.

Commitment to Gifted Education

We are thrilled to welcome Ms. Raye Rector, Coordinator of Gifted and Federal Programs, to the instructional leadership team. Ms. Rector joins us with extensive experience and expertise in the areas of K-12 gifted programming and federal accountability.

Ms. Rector’s leadership will capitalize on the ongoing work of our Gifted Advisory Committee (GAC) and last year’s accomplishments of Gifted Task Force. The next GAC meeting will take place in the GCPS School Administration Building at 6:00 pm on Thursday, November 14.

The addition of Ms. Rector will help bolster the division’s focus on gifted programming, opportunities for academic acceleration, comprehensive enrichment services, and Title I programming.

Additionally, we have added a Secondary Gifted Advisor role to the division’s formal teacher-leadership team. This position is designed to serve as both a liasaon and advocate for gifted students and programming in grades 6-12. This year’s Secondary Gifted Advisor is Mrs. Erin Yearout-Patton: eyearoutpatton@glnd.k12.va.us.

Division Curriculum Sites

We are also happy to let our families know that our secondary curriculum site is up and available to the public. We opened our elementary site last fall and spent last year preparing a parallel site for our 6-12 courses. Please know that resources like these are never finished. Adjustments in state and local curriculum, refinement of instructional pacing, updates to resources, identification of division and community needs, and response to those needs result in the dynamic nature of such resources.

The sites are designed to provide students and families with a broad curricular guide. Specific content questions should continue to be addressed with your child’s teachers.

GCPS Elementary Curriculum Site: https://sites.google.com/a/glnd.k12.va.us/elementary-curriculum/

GCPS Secondary Curriculum Site: https://sites.google.com/a/glnd.k12.va.us/secondary/

Again, our team is here to serve our school community in the ongoing development of the strongest instructional programming possible. We wish your family the very best in the coming school year, and we look forward to our continued partnership.

Best Regards