School & District Management

Va. Hones School Assistance Model

By Alan Richard — January 07, 2004 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nestled between one of this city’s most prestigious parkside neighborhoods and some of its toughest streets, Maymont Elementary School is one of the places where Virginia’s strategies for helping low-rated schools have played out.

In the process, state officials and educators at this school in the capital city learned a bit about what works and what doesn’t.

Maymont’s test scores had slipped two years ago to the point that the school was one of four in Virginia that warranted full-time attention from the state.

About the same time, Gov. Mark Warner had announced the creation of a program called PASS—the Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools—that aimed to help some 117 schools failing to meet state test-score goals. State officials hustled to organize the program on a budget of about $1 million—far less than states such as Kentucky and North Carolina were spending on interventions for low- performing schools.

The result for a handful of schools in Virginia, including Maymont Elementary, was the deployment of full-time teams of veteran educators who would spend every other week on campus. Other schools were partnered with higher-scoring schools, and some received only part-time help.

“There was limited additional funding,” Gov. Warner, a Democrat, said in an interview late last year, recalling when he had started PASS in 2002 as the state faced record budget deficits. “You had to be more creative.”

The full-time model worked fine for Maymont last year, educators at the school contend. But for the current school year, in which the number of Virginia schools receiving aid fell to only 51, the school needed something different.

Facing up to budget constraints and conceding that the program was not as effective as they wanted, Virginia officials adjusted the PASS program for the current year by abandoning the full-time-assistance model.

“The model simultaneously attempted to influence all parts of the school. That turned out to be a mistake,” said Jim Heywood, who helped design the PASS program and runs it for the Virginia Department of Education.

Maymont Elementary this year ended up with a part-time “coach.” The retired principal, who worked on the full-time assistance team last year, now makes weekly visits and advises Maymont’s principal on ways to improve instruction, the use of test data, community involvement, and other topics.

The state diverted some of the money it saved from ending the full-time model into staff development for educators who work in the PASS schools, and for support of affordable, part-time programs, such as partnering successful schools with struggling ones.

“That’s why we backed off it, because we could take that money and do more training and provide more resources for our schools,” said Jo Lynne DeMary, Virginia’s state education superintendent.

Partner schools cost less than the full-time helpers, Mr. Heywood said. The state pays mileage, the cost of meals, and hotel expenses for occasional visits from partner schools.

Gov. Warner said he contributed by calling leading district superintendents into his office and asking them to volunteer some of their employees to help needy schools. Districts responded favorably, which Ms. DeMary said was nothing less than remarkable.

Maymont’s Movement

Maymont Principal Ruth B. Person said that once she got over the disappointment of her school’s being labeled as needing extra help, she learned to count on the experience and suggestions of retired principal Judy Johnson and two other veteran educators on the full-time assistance team.

“There were mixed feelings, of course,” Ms. Person said. “The school felt that we had made some strides.”

The team helped Maymont with many of the issues Virginia officials say are common in struggling schools. It devised curricula that more closely aligned with state academic standards and exams. The team also helped develop more personalized support for each child who was behind.

“The assistance we’re receiving is still meaningful,” Ms. Person, whose school enrolls 228 pupils in prekindergarten through 5th grade, said of the part-time help.

To some extent, PASS worked in her school because of the way it was presented. The state didn’t dwell on a list of failing schools. Instead, educators from the PASS schools, including Ms. Person, were invited to the governor’s mansion, and Gov. Warner visited Maymont Elementary. “The governor made us feel like this would be wonderful,” said Ms. Person, who has pictures of her visits with Mr. Warner on her office walls.

Gov. Warner said that part of the idea was to be uplifting. Too many schools had “never even seen a school board member, let alone the governor of Virginia,” he said.

Mr. Heywood said he and other policymakers would keep looking for better ideas as such work expands, even if the funding does not. “It’s basically a field test,” he said. “No one has the answer.”

Related Tags:

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Just How Widespread Are the Threats to Educators Over COVID Policies?
An EdWeek Research Center survey asked district and school leaders if they, or anyone on their staff, had faced threats.

3 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP