In 2011 OLV was re- accredited by the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools. However, in June of 2011, all the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Washington were accredited using a system wide-accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS-CAIS) through a partnership with AdvancED. Going forward Archdiocesan schools will be always be accredited through this system-wide approach. Currently, OLV is accredited until 2019.
In the last three years, the school and church collaborated to formulate a twenty-five year “master facilities plan.” Following the completion of the plan, a successful capital campaign has enabled phase one to be completed, renovating one of the three levels of instructional space and eliminating the need for temporary modular classrooms. A large multi-purpose room featuring a stage area was redesigned to function as a classroom while retaining the ability to showcase concerts and productions. In the summer of 2012, the first floor was structurally renovated to add two classrooms(Language Arts and a Spanish/Art studio) as well as a serving kitchen and table storage room. The summer of 2013 saw the complete renovations of student bathrooms. An ADA compliant bathroom was installed. Recent renovations after the school’s 50th anniversary include new heating and air systems, new windows, fresh paint, and the addition of a collection of biblical fine art donated by a parish family. The school also added sets of classroom laptops and tablets, and upgraded the wireless network to enable the school to implement new Archdiocesan web-based initiatives such as standardized testing and student information systems.
Analysis of testing data has shown the need for continued efforts in math instruction to maintain Blue Ribbon student achievement scores on standardized tests. Over the last few years, significant investment in professional development, coaching by a math expert for teachers, and increasing instructional staffing for math has enabled effective differentiation and small group instruction in math. Last year, a new math resource was introduced and students made significant gains in math surpassing expected gains. In addition to outstanding student achievement in reading and math, students at OLV repeatedly demonstrate exceptional achievement on the National Spanish exam. OLV students take the same Spanish exam as local area high school students, often OLV students are among the highest scoring students, placing into Spanish II or III in high school.
OLV is able to make data-driven decisions to positively impact student achievement and school experience. For example, a survey on bullying was administered to students, teachers and parents in the spring of 2012. Even though the results showed that OLV did not have a systemic bullying problem, nor did any results meet the level of showing the need for an intervention the results were used as a pre-assessment to devise the Living in Faith, Hope and Love program implementing strategies to target the areas of growth identified by the survey. The results of the survey in spring 2013 show improvement among the middle school students’ relationships with one another, which was one of the primary reasons for implementing Responsive Classroom.
Excellent high school acceptance rates, with 8th grade classes experiencing 100% acceptance rates at local Catholic high schools demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching and learning at OLV and student readiness for the next level of education. Students from OLV often gain admission into advanced classes or honors programs in high school.
In addition to being a pilot school for the new on-line standardized test being utilized by the Archdiocese of Washington, OLV was a pilot school for the new web-based student admissions, re-enrollment and tuition payment system, known as TADS. This system enables families to apply, re-enroll, complete all the required Archdiocesan documents and pay tuition online. This has considerably improved the admissions and re-enrollment process for families, making the process more efficient and provides important information for the enrollment management team to use strategically. It has also streamlined the administrative work required at the school office.
The CYO program has expanded beyond expectations in the last few years, due to commitment and dedication of parent volunteers. Despite being a small school, most of our students participate in our athletic program. OLV consistently wins the division championships in basketball and baseball and has a number of cross country medal winners.
The Middle States Association re-accredited OLV in 2011, and commended the school for working in a continuous improvement model. In the spring of the same year, The Washington Post selected Sheila Martinez, as a recipient of their Distinguished Educational Leadership award. She was also named Principal of the Year within the Archdiocese of Washington and National Principal of the Year in 2012 by the NCEA. OLV teachers are second-to-none: for the past three consecutive years, an OLV teacher has been recognized with the Archdiocese of Washington Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. We are so proud of Katie Sague, Meghan Meyer and Gretchen Hochhausler! These leadership honors recognize the outstanding achievements of both OLV principal and the whole school community.
We are making progress on our 25 year facilities plan to include a gym and additional instructional space. While the most recent upgrades have proved tremendously beneficial, the challenges of an aging facility remain. A capital campaign was successfully instituted to finance the on-going improvements but increasing financial support remains a high priority. Financial need for tuition assistance is an increasing need for all families to keep tuition rates affordable. Increased efforts for estate planning seminars or endowed scholarships over the next few years will hopefully yield donations for financial aid.
Academic excellence will always be an area in need of continuous improvement and in which OLV will strive to excel. In addition to focusing on analyzing data to maintain high student achievement in reading and math, the elementary school classrooms will adopt the approach of Handwriting without Tears for a school-wide approach to handwriting instruction in cursive to support our writer’s workshop. Teachers will also begin to explore approaches that incorporate science, engineering and math instruction to develop problem-solving and leadership skills among students. The successful small group differentiation in the math in the middle school needs to be more deliberately replicated in the elementary school.
Recognizing that student social/emotional growth is as important as academic achievement, OLV needs to continue to adapt the Living in Faith, Hope and Love program to improve student relationships and the belief that students will help one another as identified by the survey conducted in the Spring of 2013.
OLV needs to continue recent efforts to market the unique OLV brand within and beyond the parish community to ensure that enrollment continues to meet the budgetary needs.
As technology continues to be an important instructional tool and resource for functioning as a small business, OLV needs to devise a better plan for replacing and upgrading technology to keep up with the demands of classroom and administrative needs.