As tens of millions of students return to the nation’s schools for the 2016-2017 academic year, here is The Washington Post’s annual look at what changes to expect in selected school districts in the Washington region.
The school year for most D.C. Public Schools students kicked off Aug. 22, and it marked Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s last first day of school leading the system. Henderson announced in June that she would step down Oct. 1. John Davis, the school system’s chief of schools, is serving as interim chancellor, and the city is searching for a permanent replacement.
● Ten D.C. elementary and middle schools embarked on a year-round schedule aimed at boosting academics at low-performing schools. These schools started Aug. 8 and will have 20 more days of class than other schools, with shorter and more frequent breaks.
● D.C. Public Schools teachers will have a new teacher-training model called LEAP. At the elementary level, most teachers will work with a math or literacy coach and a small group of teachers in the same subject. Secondary teachers will be divided into departments — math, English, social studies and science. The groups will meet weekly to hash out lesson plans. Coaches will observe each teacher weekly and offer feedback.
● Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast opens as the only single-sex DCPS high school, part of the citywide Empowering Males of Color program.
● DCPS is boosting its dual-language program offerings. The shuttered MacFarland Middle School in Petworth reopens for the 2016-2017 academic year as a Spanish dual-language school. The revamped Roosevelt High School also has a dual-language program.
●Some city high schools will offer new career-focused academies. Anacostia High School started a career academy for aspiring police officers in August, offering mentors, paid internships and specialized courses for the students. Graduates from the program will be able to enter the Cadet Academy at the Metropolitan Police Department, which allows them to work part time while attending college for free. After two years, they can join D.C. police full time as an officer. H.D. Woodson High School is adding engineering and IT academies.
● Some new charter schools opened this year. Goodwill Industries is opening its first charter school in the District to help adults get a high school diploma instead of a GED. Lee Montessori Public Charter School and Washington Leadership Academy kicked off its inaugural year this month on a five-acre site at the former St. Paul’s College in Washington’s Brookland neighborhood. Rocketship, a California-based charter operator that opened its first elementary school in 2007 and gained national attention with its initial strong test scores and blended-learning approach, opened in Southeast.
Classes began Aug. 29 in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest school system, and officials expect the district to continue its eight-year trend of enrollment increases of more than 2,000 students a year. Planners project 2,569 more students this year, for a total enrollment of 159,016.
● Montgomery begins 2016-2017 with a new superintendent, Jack Smith, after a lengthy search for a new leader. Smith, who took the helm July 1, said his top priority is narrowing the achievement gap, which he called “a moral imperative.”
● Two-hour centrally developed districtwide final exams will be replaced with shorter quarterly assessments that could take different forms: tests, essays, portfolios and projects. And with final exams gone, the district has changed the way high school grades are calculated — and the changes make it easier to get As. Now a student’s two quarter grades will determine the semester course grade, with grades rounded up in many instances.
●The county is opening Hallie Wells Middle School in Clarksburg. It also has rebuilt William H. Farquhar Middle School in Olney. Two others have new additions: Julius West Middle School in Rockville and Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda.
● A multiyear rollout of Chromebook laptops in classrooms continues. About 27,000 new Chromebooks will arrive in middle and high schools in 2016-2017. But with a continuing budget crunch, second-graders remain in a holding pattern.
● School is closed for students on Sept. 12, when the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha could fall in 2016. The school board decided last year to move a professional day so that it would coincide with the possible date of the Islamic holiday, which shifts from year to year.
●The school system has hired more than 1,000 new teachers to replace those who have left the system, to add positions for growth and to reduce class sizes.
Prince George’s County
With classes underway since Aug. 23 in Prince George’s County, the state’s second-largest school system is expecting a jump in enrollment to almost 131,000.
● The district’s arts integration initiative, already in 41 county schools, expanded into 15 others, for a total of 56.
The effort uses art across the curriculum to make content more meaningful and deepen student learning.
● Chief executive Kevin Maxwell began his fourth year at the helm and will be in the running for a contract renewal. Maxwell has said he would like to be reappointed.
● New grading changes limit failing grades to a 50 percent minimum score when students show a “good-faith effort.” Teachers also may no longer count behavior or attendance as factors in academic grades and will give students a second chance to improve their scores on certain tests or assignments, according to school officials.
●There is a new Family Institute, with learning sessions on various topics. An inaugural conference, set for Saturday, will include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman and actor Hill Harper as keynote speakers.
●There is a stricter approach to immunizations. Students who are not immunized on the first day of school may not attend classes until they have met state requirements, officials said.
●Two schools have been closed — Forestville High and Skyline Elementary — as the school district seeks to consolidate.
● There is a new office of monitoring, accountability and compliance — led by Robin Welsh, a onetime school administrator in Calvert County — after concerns about how the district handles child abuse allegations. The office will “assure fidelity” on such issues as training and reporting of abuse.
Classes in Alexandria City Public Schools begin Tuesday, when about 15,225 students will head back to school.
● The school board is continuing to redraw enrollment boundaries for elementary schools to ease overcrowding.
A Redistricting Review Committee will make recommendations to the board about how to adjust enrollment boundary lines, and the board is slated to vote on the recommendations by January.The school board also is weighing purchasing or leasing a brick office building on North Beauregard Street for a new elementary school.
● Work to remodel Parker-Grey Stadium at T.C. Williams High School is scheduled to begin this school year. The school board expects to complete the design phase for the project — which will include replacing an aging turf field, remodeling the concession stand and installing lights — in December.
Classes resume on Tuesday for an estimated 26,300 students. The fast-growing district is grappling with overcrowding at some schools and is continuing to plan for a new school building, slated to open in 2019, in the Rosslyn area.
● A program called Arlington Tech debuts this year, with a focus on hands-on learning and career technical education. The program gives students a taste of a variety of careers, including auto repair, sustainable technology, engineering and cybersecurity.
● The school board in August appointed Donna Snyder the next principal at Randolph Elementary. Snyder previously was the director of early childhood and elementary education for the district. Snyder replaces Renee Bostick, whose removal prompted an outcry among parents and teachers.
The state’s large school district resumes classes on Tuesday, when an estimated 187,000 students will return to school.
● The school board decided in July to delay implementation of regulations regarding accommodations for transgender students as it studies the issue.
● The district is slated to implement a new grading policy intended to encourage teachers to evaluate students on whether they have mastered a subject rather than on effort. Under the policy, homework will account for no more than 10 percent of a student’s grade and teachers will be required to accept late work. The policy also discourages teachers from issuing grades below 50 percent if students try to finish an assignment.
● As part of a new classroom technology initiative, the district is purchasing 7,800 laptops for students at six high schools and several elementary and middle schools, aiming to connect every student with a device that can be used for classroom activities and homework.
● Fort Belvoir Upper Elementary opens this year for students in grades four through six. The school was constructed with the help of a federal grant to ease ongoing overcrowding issues at Fort Belvoir Elementary.
School began Aug. 29 for nearly 79,000 students in Loudoun County, one of the fastest-growing districts in the region.
● A new elementary school opens this year — Madison’s Trust Elementary — in the Brambleton area.
● Hillsboro Charter Academy opens on the site of the former Hillsboro Elementary. The charter school is the second in Northern Virginia; the first, Middleburg Community Charter School, also is in Loudoun. Hillsboro Charter Academy will focus on integrating science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) into all aspects of the curriculum.
●Voters will weigh in on a $233.1 million bond issue for a new elementary, middle and high school to accommodate the district’s booming student population. The money would also fund classroom additions at three elementary schools.
●The LCPS App debuts, allowing parents and the community to better connect with the school system.
● The Academy of Engineering and Technology at Tuscarora High School will offer a rigorous, specialized curriculum for county students, who will attend the academy on alternating days. It is modeled after the existing Academy of Science, which is housed at Dominion High.
Both academies and the Monroe Advanced Technology Academy are slated to move to the Academies of Loudoun, which is scheduled to open in 2018. Tinnell Priddy, a former principal at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, was hired to be the first principal of the Academies of Loudoun.
Prince William County
An estimated 88,000 students returned to classes on Aug. 29 in the state’s second-largest school district.
● The county’s newest high school, Charles C. Colgan High, opens. The $98 million school facility is named for Virginia’s longest-serving state senator and features an aquatics center and a black-box theater.
● The new Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School opens to students in Woodbridge. The elementary school is named for a Prince William County firefighter who died in 2007 after he entered a burning home to save a family and became trapped in the blaze.
● Dale City’s Mills Godwin Middle School, named for a Virginia governor and state legislator who backed school segregation, has been renamed for a black educator and philanthropist. Officials rededicated the school George Hampton Middle School.