Fairfax County Schools
Fairfax County is on deck this week. Last week we covered Montgomery County. This video will go through Fairfax and then next week we’ll compare these two highly sought after school districts in the DC Area.
Fairfax County School System
Fairfax County has 199 schools and is one of the largest school districts in the country. Students can take International Baccalaureate (IB) or AP classes in high school. There are also magnet schools, STEM schools and Academies that offer a school within a school. The #1 High School in the country is also in Fairfax County – Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This is a 4 year magnet school program created in 1985 to improve education in science, math and technology.
At the elementary level, there are two magnet schools open to any student in the county. Bailey’s and Hunters Woods have an arts and science focus.
Fairfax County Schools offer an Advanced Academics Program (AAP) for grades 3-8. AAP has four levels. Level 1 is provided to all students. Level 2 is when some students who exceed the class receive advanced instruction in the same setting. Level 3 is like Level 2 but expands to multiple academic areas. If your student is in Level 4, this is a full-time challenging program and they may be bussed to a school that offers this as opposed to staying in your in-boundary school.
At middle school the AAP program can continue by attending a school that offers Level 4 or by taking honors classes at your boundary school.
At high school there are multiple options for extra rigor including honors, AP classes and the International Baccalaureate programs as well as dual enrollment where students earn college credit. Eight high schools offer IB and they are Annandale, Edison, Justice, Lewis, Marshall, Mount Vernon, Robinson and South Lakes High schools. Mount Vernon and South Lakes also offer the IB Career Program.
There are 35 different AP courses offered at Centreville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Herndon, Langley, McLean, Oakton, South County, West Potomac, West Springfield, Westfield and Woodson High Schools.
There are six Academies in Fairfax County which are schools within the high school.
There is a Global STEM program at Edison High School called Edison Academy. This program has 90 seats per grade and is offered to Edison High School students first, then if there are open seats they open up on a first come first served basis to students not in the Edison boundary.
Chantilly Academy is a high school within Chantilly High which offers over two dozen career focuses from Cosmetology to IT to a variety of medical fields.
Fairfax Academy within Fairfax High School has Arts, Languages, Fashion, performing arts and even social media marketing.
Falls Church Academy offers medical coursework.
Marshall Academy within Marshall High School is a STEM school with classes in Engineering, languages, automotive tech, cosmetology, culinary arts.
West Potomac Academy offers career related courses and certifications in the medical field.
Fairfax County requires one credit in Economics and Personal Finance to be completed. It only carries a pass/fail grade.
Many schools offer the Global Classroom Project where students can work with others around the world.
Fairfax County, VA Schools – Academics
Fairfax County is very transparent about their curriculum. The instruction is guided by the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) which can be found on the Virginia Department of Education’s website. What does that mean? They did not adopt Common Core. They felt that developing Virginia’s Standards of Learning was superior.
The school board has a ton of input on the curriculum and the quality of various members of the school board is in question. Here’s the problem – people don’t come out and vote for these local elections and they are the ones who impact day to day life the most. People who do vote will vote a straight party ticket and that’s not always the best. It seems having a balanced board would be better. Also, some of the current and prospective school board members didn’t attend Fairfax County Schools, don’t have kids in Fairfax County Schools and didn’t graduate college.
Fairfax County Admin
The Superintendent is relatively new. She’s held her position just over a year. In October, 2022, she hired an Equity Consultant (for $455,000 for 9 months of work) to advise on a plan going forward to ensure “equitable outcomes.” Another equity/anti-racist consultant has been paid $58,500 for less than 4 hours of talks – the last of which was in December, 2022.
In January 2023, just three months after the $500K consultant was hired, there was a scandal. Students at multiple Fairfax County High Schools were never informed that they were winners of the National Merit Scholarship. It was hard for people to not believe that students who earned the National Merit Scholarship were intentionally not told about it.
Fairfax County Today – a Snapshot in Time
The Superintendent sent out a message last week stating that they are implementing “Restorative Justice” as of Oct 2023. This initiative is called the “Responsible Pathway to Restorative Justice Facilitation.” They are going to train people to operate as school-based restorative justice facilitators. By late 2024 they hope to have 2 facilitators at each school. From her letter, “I’m thrilled about this program and how it will support us to provide excellence, equity, and opportunity for each and every one of our students, especially those impacted by discipline disparities.”
What is Restorative Justice? It’s the premise that disciplining a student for bad behavior by the usual methods – detention, suspension, expulsion, doesn’t result in a change to the behavior. Instead, if the student bullied or attacked another student, they would put them both together for the bully to learn from the victim exactly how they impacted the victim.
We’re going to see the same problems here that we have in DC and also in Maryland. Behavior across all schools has nosedived since the pandemic. In Spring, 2023, there were lots of teacher resignations. They didn’t feel supported by the administration at the school, the parents or the students.
Multiple teachers chime in on the message boards discussing the schools, stating that they are at risk physically from some of these students. here. Principals get in trouble from above for having too many suspensions or disciplinary statistics, so they don’t want document it. Kids get way too many chances, and without documentation, nothing happens.
One teacher stated that they knew several teachers who had been attacked by students, and were out for weeks as a result. One needed surgery. When a teacher is assaulted, law enforcement is supposed to be notified, but that doesn’t happen. When a teacher is out on short-term disability, they only get paid 2/3 of their pay, even if it wasn’t their fault a child hurt them severely.
Lewis High School just dropped the IB program.
Special education teachers cannot keep up with the workload.
An elementary teacher stated on the message boards that they grew up in the 90’s and the differences they see now are kids are not retaining as much year to year, kids are way more disruptive and lack self-control. They don’t know how to be bored. The classes are way more diverse and include way more SPED and ESL. Very few pullouts. When I was younger it was mostly pull out for kids who needed extra help.
Technology addiction is real and I am shocked that ES kids have phones, IPADS, Apple Watches, etc. Manners are lacking. Many kids trash cafeteria and bathrooms. Many talk back to teachers.
From a long-time parent: Gone are dress up days, school projects, book reports or (any public speaking), textbooks, workbooks, spelling lists, homework, memorization of any facts, parent conferences, personalized report cards, outdoor time (beyond recess), handwriting, lockers, art education to name just a few.
There’s also a huge lack of textbooks. Lots of screens. Not just a Fairfax County issue but this is rampant.
Where are the textbooks? Where are the novels? Why is so much of the public education relying on devices, screens and online programs. And why have the consequences for bad or violent behavior been softened to “let’s all hug it out.”
Fairfax County Schools – Conclusion
On Niche, the ten best Fairfax High Schools are Thomas Jefferson Science and Tech, Oakton, McLean, Lake Braddock, Langley, Madison, Chantilly, Centreville, Woodson, West Springfield. You’ll see the same 10 for U.S. News and World Report’s rankings, in a slightly different order. Fairfax used to be considered among the best in years passed. This is still an excellent school system and very sought after by parents of school aged kids. There are definitely problems but they aren’t any different than what we’re seeing in all the other surrounding school districts. Their curriculum seems as strong as ever, and it’s been in place for almost a decade as opposed to the constant changing we see in other districts.