Arlington VA Public Schools
Arlington County Schools have generally been held in pretty high regard. But then we had Covid, it seemed that the loyalty and support many school districts once had fell by the wayside as parent’s were affected by their specific school’s response to Covid. So how did Arlington County do? And now that we’re all back in-person for the 2nd year are things peachy again? Let’s find out!
Arlington County, VA Public Schools – Background Information
Arlington County School System has 23 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, 4 high schools, 1 school that’s 6-12th grades, and several other programs. The student population speaks 90 different languages making this a melting pot representing 145 different nations. Arlington Public Schools boasts a 95% graduation rate. Niche.com says they are the #2 school district in Virginia.
According to the Superintendent, this year the district is 99% staffed, and teacher compensation was increased by 6.8% on average. Student enrollment is also up. They also have a new “Where’s The Bus” app so parents can track exactly where the bus is.
The county also grew very rapidly in the recent past so there were a lot of overcrowded schools. Boundary adjustments are still needed. High School overcrowding is being addressed, by adding on to Washington-Liberty, which will increase the enrollment to 3000+ students.
Arlington County, VA Public Schools – Academics
We discuss Arlington schools in terms of pyramids – which is, the high school they feed to. There are 3 in boundary / by-right high schools. Yorktown serves the northern part of Arlington. Washington-Liberty serves the southern part of North Arlington – so let’s call this central Arlington. And Wakefield serves South Arlington.
There are a few other programs which you can apply for. Arlington Tech is a career/technical school with a STEM focus. This is on the Arlington Career Center Campus which is home to a broad array of educational experiences. There are opportunities for dual enrollment with Northern Virginia Community College and career focused classes and industry certifications. HB Woodlawn is lottery based, and serves grades 6-12. Here, students have a lot of control over the school, and their own experiences.
This will be focused on the mainstream 3 public high schools which the majority of students will choose to attend.
Arlington Schools invested in new instruction materials, and there’s 24/7 virtual tutoring available for older students to help connect the losses they had during the covid year(s.)
Overall, Arlington has been known to be anti-tracking, meaning, they don’t group students out according to abilities. There are talented and gifted programs but they seem to be dismantling them for the most part. Yorktown does offer AP classes as does Wakefield. Washington Liberty offers IB and AP classes.
The gifted students are supposed to get more challenging work from their teachers in elementary school, get some differentiated classes in middle school and then in high school move on to AP or IB classes. If you don’t like this, well, you should look at Fairfax County Schools then.
The general comments you will hear are that Yorktown can be more competitive and stressful since Northern Arlington is a more “affluent” area with most families living in single family homes. Washington-Liberty is a huge school because there’s much more population density in the central part of Arlington. Wakefield has a varied student population – with diverse socioeconomic statuses as South Arlington has many families for whom English may be a second language. Washington Liberty and Wakefield are both pretty inclusive and accepting of kids of all walks and types. Yorktown, not so much.
There are a lot of computer games, apps, and many parents don’t love the screens their kids are in front of, and this ramped up obviously during covid.
When compared to DC, Arlington County has better resources for those with learning disabilities compared to DC, but regardless, it can be hit or miss with some parents feeling they need to pull their children out in favor of private.
Arlington County Public Schools – Extracurriculars
At the High School level, all the usual sports are offered – football, baseball, swimming/diving, field hockey, volleyball, track, tennis, softball, crew.
As far as clubs go, I am jealous. There are so many to choose from, and you can start your own. The schools provide a framework for setting up the club charter.
Animal Welfare Club, Analyzing Literature, Special Effects Makeup Club, Sewing, singing, robotics, coding, languages – there is so much to choose from. The offerings alone are indicative of a varied and intelligent student population.
Arlington County Public Schools – Administration
Arlington Schools are overseen by a Superintendent, as well as a School Board comprised of 5 members.
Criticism of Arlington Schools is that they cave to the loudest voices. Generally people enjoy the demographic balance offered by Washington Liberty, and feel that Arlington County is just adding on to make it larger to accommodate more students, instead of re-zoning parts of the district to go to Wakefield or Yorktown – which don’t offer the same number of academic options as Washington-Liberty.
The school board spent $5 Million on upgrading security throughout the school buildings. In lieu of the Security Officers, they do have trained security officials in middle and high school buildings.
No Child Left Behind
What’s new this year is the Every Student Counts program.
“When you think about the last few years through COVID, we had a lot of students who really struggled and some that did very well,” explained Durán. ” What we’re seeing in our preliminary data from our state assessments many successes for some, but not for all. This year we’re really focusing on our every student counts excellence for all students. Looking at who our students are that need the most support.”
What does this mean? We don’t know yet. But we can guess that if they are phasing out any talented and gifted programs, then they are definitely pulling up those who were left behind.
Arlington is a small school district with a lot of students. There were parent complaints about how long school was virtual during covid, but moving on from that, there’s a lot here to be happy about. If you want to avoid the big school experience, you can also apply for HB Woodlawn or Arlington Tech lotteries, which are smaller and can feel more inclusive than the big high schools.
In Arlington you have a nice diverse lineup of opportunities, but not a lot of advanced work at lower grades. And being in Virginia you have access to UVA, William & Mary, and Virginia Tech — plus James Madison, Mary Washington and Virginia Commonwealth, among others. There are always things to complain about, but this feels like a pretty big win to me.