Charlottesville High School students interested in becoming teachers will next year be able to earn college credit for classes about the profession.
The division is partnering with Virginia State University to offer two dual-enrollment classes about teaching as part of a new Rising Stars program. Details of the partnership are still in the works, but administrators are hoping that students in the program will be eligible for guaranteed admission to the historically Black university.
Students also will be eligible for scholarships from Virginia State and could possibly have their tuition, room and board covered as part of the partnership.
“We’re working really hard with VSU to be able to provide the best opportunity for the students that want to matriculate through this program to have as free of an education as they can,” Chief Academic Officer Katina Otey told the School Board on Thursday.
The partnership was discussed during a presentation on changes to course offerings for next school year at CHS, Lugo-McGinness Academy, Burford Middle and Walker Upper Elementary.
Walker and Lugo-McGinness didn’t have any changes.
Buford is adding several new electives including journalism, yearbook, drama and an introduction to urban farming. In exchange, the school won’t offer Family Consumer Sciences or Independent Living.
The teacher for consumer sciences is retiring and will be replaced by the urban farming teacher. The other course changes are budget neutral, officials said.
Buford assistant principal M. C’ta Mitchelson-DeLaurier said those electives were chosen in response to student surveys and because they aligned with classes offered at the high school level.
“Urban farming is a highly requested course,” Mitchelson-DeLaurier said.
Additionally, school administrators thought that courses such as journalism and yearbook could help Buford improve its accreditation status and underscore focus on academic rigor with the reading and writing components. Buford was accredited with conditions in 2019.
Walker Upper Elementary gave students more elective choices last school year and found success.
CHS principal Eric Irizarry said that adding those electives could help increase participation in the high school classes.
“One of the reasons you know engineering is so strong at the high school, and orchestra, is because they have a foothold in the lower grades as well,” he said. “So that’ll give them another foothold in some areas that we traditionally have not had a feeder pattern. So hopefully, we can increase some of those opportunities for students as well.”
In another change at Buford, courses taken for high school credit won’t be labeled as honors, reflecting the division’s push toward unleveled classes, a model in which there isn’t a standalone honors course.
“As we continue to create opportunities and access for all of our students, we want to be sure that the program language is clear,” Mitchelson-DeLaurier said of the change.
Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said that Walker is continuing their efforts with unleveled classes, which started last school year.
“So the students who are leaving Walker coming up to Buford will continue to matriculate at the same level of rigor, as in an honors class, without a designation and a set aside class for honors,” she said.
None of the administrators said the pandemic and school closures affected their course offerings.
Walker principal Adam Hastings said the program of study reflects a course alignment across the three schools, which the administrations have been working on for several years.
“At Walker, our big efforts were about unleveling, and we’re at a point now where we’re very happy with the program offerings that we have,” Hastings said. “I think we’re moving into steady waters looking at it from a fifth grade to sixth grade continuum.”
At Charlottesville High, the African American history class will be designated as honors rather than giving students the option to take it as an honors course.
The honors-option was added in 2019. The school’s Black Student Union criticized the lack of that option in fall 2018.
The teaching class was added last year but no students enrolled. The new partnership and offering college credit could serve as an incentive for students to sign up, Irizarry said.
The two classes will create a true career and technical education pathway, he said. Additionally, Virginia State will help recruit students to the program and provide other opportunities for students.
“I think this is bolstering what we were trying to do,” he said.
School Board members were excited about the program, which could help bring more students into the profession and diversify the pool of teaching candidates.
“Growing our own I know that’s a huge concern and interest of ours, so thank you all for going out there and finding the way to make that happen for our students,” School Board chairwoman Jennifer McKeever said.