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Old 10-04-2012, 11:42 AM
 
2 posts, read 6,654 times
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Can anyone enlighten me on the differences between the general education provided to students at FCPS and LCPS? Do you think one system is better than the other?

I've been reading the boards on the SAT scores by county, and discussions regarding GT programs at FCPS, and it seems to me that FCPS has a lot more offerings to allow for a better custom learning experience for students from K - 12.

On the GT end, FCPS has full-time AAP from grades 3 - 8, whereas LCPS has the FUTURA program only 1 day a week starting at grade 4-5, then SPECTRUM for MS. Then in HS, FCPS has Honors, IB and AP, and LCPS has AP too. (I assume LCPS has Honors, but I don't believe they have IB.)

It seems to me FCPS has a lot more to offer students starting earlier (Level I - Level IV), resulting in a higher expectations for students, that in the course of grades K - 12, results in almost 100 points higher average SAT results. (1750s for top FCPS HSs, vs. 1650s for top LCPS.)

Langley 1812
McLean 1755
Woodson 1754
Oakton 1753
Yorktown 1747
Madison 1730
Marshall 1702

Loudoun Valley 1652
Stone Bridge 1649
Briar Woods 1645

We currently live in Loudoun, but are not happy with the schools due to the whole redistricting issues year upon year. It seems they teach to the lowest common denominator here. For example, as a pilot program, LCPS nearly got rid of all Honors programs at Blue Ridge Middle School this year - they were going to "blend" the Honors classes back into the general classes until the parents backed the administration down.

But I don't like the idea of a "pressure cooker" environment either. Is FCPS very stressful, given so much emphasis on the GT programs?

Thoughts, please?
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Old 10-04-2012, 11:58 AM
 
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I believe FCPS has a good mix. There are schools that are GT centers or magnet schools such as TJ, which are the actual pressure cookers that you've referred to. The GT/magnet school environment at FCPS does create a very competitive environment. I shiver when I think about sending my kids to one of those schools.

What I think FCPS does really well is that the normal schools can be also very good, sometimes even better than the GT centers or magnet schools. I believe what's important is creating an environment that allow kids to learn at their own maximized pace. Some kids learn faster/better than others.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:14 PM
 
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While I am familiar with Loudoun's SAT scores, I am not familiar with Loudoun schools. It seems to me entirely possible that most of the difference betweeen the SAT scores at schools like Langley and Loudoun Valley could be correlated to income levels, rather than to anything that takes place within the schools. It's also possible that SAT scores could be viewed as a "lagging indictor," since most of Loudoun's growth has been recent and the larger cohorts of students in Loudoun schools taking SATs may not start to emerge for years (by which time scores in Loudoun may have increased and/or scores in Fairfax may have declined).

As to whether FCPS as a system is "very stressful," I would suggest that the opportunities for stress may be greater than in Loudoun, due to a combination of (1) more differentiated instruction, with all that entails in terms of acceptance into, or rejection from, various programs like AAP and TJ (which, while open to Loudoun students, gets most of its students from Fairfax); (2) earlier start times; and (3) schools that, in many cases, have larger enrollments than their Loudoun counterparts, but that the stress associated with (1) is more of an issue for some parents than it is for their children, unless the parents have managed to instill their insecurities in their children.

It is also very common at some Fairfax high schools for many students to take 4-5 AP or IB courses in both their junior and senior years. I don't know if that's as common in Loudoun, but it's another source of stress for some HS students in FCPS.
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:36 AM
 
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@JEB - Interesting point about SATs in Loudoun being viewed as a "lagging indicator." I believe you brought that point up in a previous post somewhere else.

@FSBox - Good point about learning at the child's maximized pace.

Thank you for your feedback.
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:45 AM
 
Location: Fairfax County
1,527 posts, read 1,988,997 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FSBox View Post
What I think FCPS does really well is that the normal schools can be also very good, sometimes even better than the GT centers or magnet schools. I believe what's important is creating an environment that allow kids to learn at their own maximized pace. Some kids learn faster/better than others.
I agree. Also, some kids need peer groups that can help them sustain this maximized pace. I am sure some of the teachers on this forum can attest to how great it is to watch that magic moment when a group of students are feeding off each other and just taking off with a project. I have seen it as a coach in enrichment activities and it really is amazing to witness.
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:27 PM
 
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My husband and I grew up in Fairfax County and went to public school all the way through high school. Fairfax County was one of the top counties in the nation at that time, though I don't think I received an ideal education. Math was good. Science was okay. History, government/civics, and writing were rather dismal. Thankfully I had an excellent writing teacher in 12th grade who fixed many of my problems in writing.

As for my kids, we started one of them in kindergarten in Fairfax County. I was very impressed with the school. My child (who was ahead of the average in reading and math) was challenged. I was pleasantly surprised at the great academic program even though it was only half-day kindergarten. Then in January we moved to Loudoun. The K program at the Loudoun school was nothing like Fairfax. My child didn't learn anything the rest of the year. Initially I thought it was probably just the differences with the particular teachers. Then came first grade in Loudoun. My child didn't learn anything there either (except about Halloween, Santa Claus, Kwanzaa, Islam, various pagan Hindu holidays, and Mardi Gras). Through a variety of circumstances, we ended up withdrawing him mid-year and homeschooling.

My next child went through a whole year of K in Loudoun. She didn't learn much of anything either. They did testing at the beginning of the year, and she had already met all of the K benchmarks. My theory according to experience is that the Loudoun teachers don't bother worrying about the children who are ahead. If they already meet the grade level objectives and SOL's, then there is nothing to be done for those children. We are homeschooling all of our children now primarily for academic reasons since our Loudoun elementary school has nothing to offer them.

Granted I have extremely limited recent experience in either Fairfax or Loudoun public schools, so just take this as anecdotal evidence. However, through coversations with many of the parents in my neighborhood, I think the trend continues with older students. The Loudoun schools put a tremendous effort into helping kids who are behind and who have learning disabilities. The main goal is to have as many children do as well on the SOL's as possible. I just wish that the schools would use some of their resources to invest in the children who are high achieving.

Additionally, I think the same problem exists in our Loudoun middle school which I have been investigating of late. Ours is one of the other two middle schools (besides Blue Ridge) which has fully implemented the blending honors program. I recently spoke to a vice principal at our middle school about this topic, and he would not give me a straight answer to any of my questions. My husband and I are reaching the point that we think public middle school may not an option for our kids because the honors classes are likely too watered down. We are looking at alternative/private middle schools or homeschooling.

I often hear people say that Loudoun schools are good. Parents, teachers, School Board members, and the Board of Supervisers all parrot the same thing. I don't know why they say this. I wonder if they are just saying this because they hear everyone else saying it. I don't think anyone is using an objective standard for comparison. Certainly, I have not experienced Loudoun schools to be good. Perhaps Loudoun is just the same as Fairfax, but personally I think I would choose Fairfax if I were in a position to pick a county in which to live.
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:43 AM
 
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Former high school teacher here. I worked in PWC and Loudoun. My own kids will be in Fairfax schools because I was not impressed with Loudoun or PWC. I agree with the other opinions that kids with special needs get great services, but would say Loudoun is better in this respect. As for the advanced kids, those in PWC got more than those in Loudoun from what I experienced. PWC really pushed kids, Loudoun more or less just offered the class.

Most teachers I know think of Fairfax as the superior school system regardless of which county they work for (PWC, Loudoun, or Fairfax).

One reason I left teaching is I hated teaching kids to do the minimum to get by. It was all about passing classes and graduating, even if a kid clearly did not deserved to pass or graduate.
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