elementary students reading booksHenrico County Public Schools’ motto (“The right to achieve. The support to succeed.”) describes the division’s commitment to helping every student learn, and can be found on letterhead, websites, business cards, publications and a host of other places.

How is HCPS living up to its motto, working to make sure that each student has the support he or she needs to succeed in the classroom? By focusing intently on five crucial areas of improvement: accreditation and academic growth; literacy; cultural competency and equity; family engagement; and closing behavioral gaps.

Accreditation and/or academic growth: Making sure that HCPS’ long legacy of academic excellence grows each year, is enjoyed by all students and that all schools are fully accredited or on a clear path to full accreditation.

K-12 literacy: Ensuring that each student has the tools to explore the wonders of reading and its personal, academic and career benefits.

Cultural competency and equity: Making awareness of diversity and cultural differences, as well as equal access to education, foundations of education in Henrico.

Parent/family engagement: Building bridges between schools and families to create a vital and seamless student-support system.

Closing behavioral gaps: Emphasizing behavioral supports and interventions and making sure disciplinary measures are applied consistently and fairly to all students.

 

What is HCPS doing to enhance student achievement?

  • When Virginia stiffened standards for SOL tests several years ago, school divisions in the state saw more schools fall short of full accreditation. Since then HCPS has made significant gains, with more schools regaining full state-accreditation and some others in the division making encouraging gains. One way has been by taking what worked and applying it to other schools. All nine Henrico County high schools are fully accredited.

  • Teachers in grades K-2 are getting more training to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to improve reading skills and work effectively with student reading groups. In 2016-17, middle and high school students were challenged to set ambitious school and personal goals as part of the “Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum Challenge.” The challenge puts more reading in courses from English to Art, and engages students by giving them plenty of choices. HCPS is also putting more high-interest books in classrooms. At Highland Springs High School, classrooms that got the books saw significant jumps in SOL reading scores. The initiative is being expanded to Elko, Rolfe, Wilder, Fairfield and Brookland middle schools; language arts teachers at those schools have received extra training to match the effort.

  • Henrico Schools used a state grant to plan for expanding and upgrading extended-day and summertime offerings. Participating schools offer after-school academic help, as well as transportation home. The Henrico Education Foundation is spearheading the grant-funded effort to add offerings and give the program a community-center atmosphere. The model will add arts programs and STEM activities; mentoring and character education; parental resources, forums and classes; and access to health resources and screenings. A pilot program at Glen Lea Elementary School will eventually be expanded to more schools.

  • A pilot program brought a full-time psychologist and full-time social worker to the Campus of Virginia Randolph, providing for more in-school group and individual counseling. The result? A 58 percent drop in out-of-school suspensions. The program has been expanded to Ward and Varina elementary schools, Rolfe Middle School and Varina High School.

  • HCPS is considering integrating STEAM curricula – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math – into its middle schools. The STEAM programs would add more high-quality options for students in grades 6-8. A gifted academy would also be created at L. Douglas Wilder Middle School. Henrico Schools also offers three existing middle school International Baccalaureate programs. Follow the process at our middle school transformation page. 

  • This new department is addressing the achievement gap from the angle of improved school leadership and instruction. The department’s job is to make sure that schools are always getting better, in order to serve the needs of all students.

  • HCPS added school-based staff members to empower families to bridge gaps and build connections among families, schools and communities. These connections give families the chance to become more actively involved with their child’s education; to volunteer in the schools; to attend workshops and events; and to serve on school and family committees.

  • HCPS has created 180 new slots for preschool students after implementing the VPI+ state preschool program.

  • Henrico Schools’ “Henrico HEROES” program was named Virginia’s best mentoring program for 2014. Data showed that the program’s students, who had been deemed at-risk, showed improvements in attendance, behavior and grades.

  • Henrico Schools has been engaged in a multiyear rethinking of how the school division addresses student behavior and discipline. The initiative has garnered national attention and honors. HCPS has overhauled its Student Code of Conduct. which makes discipline more consistent at its 72 schools and program centers. The Code, however, is just one piece of a new approach to discipline across Henrico Schools – one that emphasizes student supports and interventions to help students learn to meet the school division’s behavioral expectations. 

    Some elements of the new approach:

    • The Student Support and Disciplinary Review Office grew from four to 19 employees to provide students with more proactive and preventative measures. The new staff members include a preventative services specialist, seven behavior support facilitators, two behavioral support coordinators, a K-12 intervention specialist and a substance-abuse intervention coordinator.
    • The division’s Department of Exceptional Education instituted its BLISS program – Behavior Learning Interventions and Support Services – to help students with disabilities and behavior challenges. The program embeds crisis resource teachers and behavioral instructional assistants at schools, providing consistent hands-on expertise.
    • To keep the new approach front-and-center, two of HCPS’ five areas of emphasis involve closing behavioral gaps and improving cultural competency and equity.

    HCPS is seeing some encouraging signs when data is compared with the years before more supports began to be added. A 2015 UCLA report cited HCPS as a national leader in reducing suspension rates. A 2015 story in the Washington Post held up Henrico’s success as a bright example for other large school divisions.

    The National School Boards Association awarded HCPS a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Award for the groundbreaking initiative. Henrico Schools was one of only five large U.S. school systems to receive a first-place award from the NSBA, an association representing more than 90,000 local school board members.

  • In 2017, Highland Springs Elementary School welcomed an exciting new educational program: An Achievable Dream Academy.

    In January 2017, the Henrico School Board approved a unique public/private partnership with the nonprofit group An Achievable Dream. The group brought its nationally recognized program to Highland Springs Elementary School. An Achievable Dream is a nonprofit that works with school divisions to create and manage a school program designed to foster learning and success among all students, regardless of socioeconomic background. Students learn important life skills through a specialized curriculum that includes ethics, etiquette, peaceful conflict resolution and healthy living.

    The program began in 1992 and has grown to incorporate four schools in Virginia. Community and business sponsors help the program become a reality. 

  • Henrico Schools used a grant to help put high-end graphing calculators in all math classes for Algebra I and above. The initiative helps level the playing field for students whose families can’t afford the pricey devices, and establishes consistency in classes divisionwide.

  • HCPS evaluated its gifted education program and adopted a model to look more closely at gifted programs in underrepresented communities. By identifying characteristics that might not normally be associated with gifted learners, some schools have seen encouraging growth in gifted opportunities.

  • This diverse group of parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, students and community leaders took a comprehensive look at the achievement gap among African-American and Hispanic students. The group recommended specific changes in four areas: increased parental involvement, increased community involvement, changing school culture and improving school practices. HCPS has implemented many of the group’s thoughtful recommendations.

  • Thanks to Henrico County voters who approved a 4 percent tax on meals in 2013, more than 140 school improvement projects have been completed at schools across the county. Fifty-seven percent of HCPS schools are at least 50 years old. The projects include replacing leaky roofs, paving parking lots and remodeling dingy bathrooms that haven’t been changed since the age of bell-bottoms and transistor radios. Of Henrico’s 72 schools, 50 have seen at least one significant project completed. The value of all the improvements so far totals $29 million.

    Voters expressed their support for larger-scale school renovations and expansions by approving the November 2016 bond referendum. The bonds will fund renovations of J.R. Tucker High School, built in 1962, and Tuckahoe Middle School, which opened in 1959. Also slated for much-needed renovations are Adams, Chamberlayne, Crestview, Pemberton, Seven Pines and Skipwith elementary schools. The referendum will also fund an innovation center in the Varina District, a new Advanced Career Education center at Glen Allen High School, an eight-room classroom addition at Glen Allen Elementary School and a new elementary school in the Brookland District.