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School Characteristics and Replicable Practices
Gainesville Middle School for the Arts and Sciences emphasizes all students learning at their highest potential as
part of the vision and mission for the school. Our staff has embraced learning as measured by mastery of the standards.
Students are expected to show evidence that they have mastered the Virginia Standards of Learning, and if not, there is a
rigorous procedure in place for relearning and reassessment. This procedure includes teachers, parents, and the student
and is monitored by grade-level administrators. This practice is now systemic and is part of the “fabric” of Gainesville.
Parents often require that their students retake assessments simply as a matter of course, even if the original grade was not
a failing one. Our focus is no longer just on how we teach the curriculum, but on when students actually master the
Teachers adhere to the curriculum as designed by the school division and the State of Virginia. Many of the
Gainesville teachers participate in curriculum design at the division level. Interdisciplinary and collaborative teams meet
to insure that the learning objectives are addressed in a coherent and progressive manner easily understood by the
students. This has been accomplished by each collaborative team breaking their curriculum down into individual learning
targets. Each lesson is focused on a specific learning target, written in student-friendly language, and prominently
displayed in the classroom. The learning targets are then revisited multiple times throughout the class to ensure
It is understood that at Gainesville learning should be fun. Middle school students require stimulation and
motivation to gain their attention and prepare them to learn. Teachers at Gainesville regularly utilize technology to design
exciting and hands-on activities that introduce new material and review prior learning. Teachers share these strategies
with each other with the result that students are often heard exclaiming how fun classes were for them. Teachers
implement a variety of learning strategies as appropriate, and are experts in understanding and measuring students’
capacity for understanding and retaining essential learning
Gainesville participates with a number of other Prince William middle schools in Interactive Achievement testing.
This consists of benchmark tests designed by our own teachers that provide information for teachers on student learning.
SCHOOLS TO WATCH – VIRGINIA
GAINESVILLE MIDDLE SCHOOL – VISITOR’S GUIDE
Gainesville Middle School for
the Arts and Sciences
Re-Designated in 2017
Gainesville Middle School ● Prince William County Public
School ● Prince William County, VA ● Catherine Porter- Lucas, Principal ● 8001 Limestone Drive, Gainesville VA
● Tel (703) 753-2997, Fax (703) 753-4331
2016-2017 School Statistics
Community: Gainesville, VA
Grade Levels: 6-8
School Schedule: 6 class day (6th and 7th grades)
7 class day (8th grade)
• 56% White
• 15% Hispanic
• 14% Asian
• 11% African American
• 2% Multi-Racial
• 20% Special Education
• 15% Economically Disadvantaged
• 7% English Language Learners
Fully Accredited by VDOE: 2014, 2015, 2016
Math Pass Rate 90%: 2014, 2015, 2016
English Pass Rate 87%: 2014, 2015, 2016
Science Pass Rate 93%: 2014, 2015, 2016
Writing Pass Rate 84%: 2014, 2015, 2016
History Pass Rate 95%: 2014, 2015, 2016
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Multiple methods of assessment are used at every grade level, along with rubrics for projects and papers. Students are
familiar with the requirements for specific assessments and many choose to meet or exceed the requirements outlined in
the rubric. Authentic learning experiences such as Mock Trials, Mock Congress, and Virtual field trips allow for students
to be assessed in ways beyond standardized tests. Additionally, staff are expected to use formative assessments on a
regular basis to measure students’ mastery, and to use that data to inform their decisions about pacing.
The school structure of collaborative and interdisciplinary teams, along with a well-designed master schedule,
insure that teachers have ample time to plan and share best practices. Collaborative Teams all have common planning
times and meet at least weekly. Teachers are motivated to progressively improve instruction, and often meet during their
lunch break to discuss strategies and to share ideas.
Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Teams (CTs) are in place at Gainesville. Teachers work to build positive
relationships with each of their students, understanding their needs and planning for appropriate methods to enhance
learning. Core and encore teachers share information concerning students and monitor progress through all classes.
Counselors at Gainesville ‘loop’ with their grade levels, accompanying the students through the middle school experience.
At Gainesville all teachers understand that they are responsible for all students and work collaboratively to ensure that
students’ needs are supported. Outside of the classroom teachers can be found participating in Team Day activities,
attending various sporting events, participating in community chorus and performances which helps students feels
supported in their efforts beyond academics.
Teachers are particularly alert to the needs of their students. They are familiar with the numerous resources
available, and are well trained in insuring needs are being met. The school counselors, the nurse, and all of the staff are
trained in recognizing a variety of health issues, both physical and emotional. Students with needs are addressed promptly
and parents are provided with excellent resources and information. Throughout the year, families are encouraged to attend
a variety of functions at the school. Among these popular events is the annual Signet picnic which draws hundreds of
families. Parents and families are also invited to concerts, sporting events, drama performances, Principal’s Pride
ceremonies, and Honor Roll assemblies. Our physical education department initiated an entirely new method of delivering
instruction through academic team competitions. The connections made to core subjects through SOL questions delivered
in PE, and the competitive atmosphere have made PE a much enjoyed time of the day.
There is also an emphasis on the performing arts at Gainesville. In these classes, students study public speaking
skills that enable them to communicate appropriately with peers and adults. Study and organizational skills are taught at
every level and there are specific classes for 8th grade, e.g. Executive Strategies. Teachers have individual classroom
management styles but one facet that is embedded in every classroom is respect. As a school we emphasize respect and
courtesy every day – “Respect and Courtesy today, for that is the Gainesville way”. Students understand that in order to
succeed in this world, we all must be respectful to each other.
Across the board students are encouraged to debate and discuss current events. We recognize the need to make
instruction relevant and do so by bringing the real world into the classroom on a daily basis. Conflict resolution is taught
in the classrooms by our school counselors, and teachers are well-versed on how to assist students in handling these
situations. Counselors work with students starting in the sixth grade to develop Academic Career Plans. These plans are
maintained through a student’s high school career, and are focused on a student’s desired high school degree, and their
post-secondary education plans. The plan begins in 6th grade when students complete a career interest survey that assists
them in selecting a career pathway, and students are informed about the possible educational requirements of the career
they’re interested in. Students can update their plan, and parents have access to it throughout the student’s middle school
and high school careers.
Gainesville has a unique line up of classes that are focused on all of the above. During their time at Gainesville,
our middle schoolers will all have the opportunity to explore a variety of fine and performance arts classes – including
Chorus, Band, Orchestra, Drama, and Art, along with Communication, Journalism, Creative Writing, Family and
Consumer Science, and Technology Education. These classes and their core classes give them ample opportunity to begin
to think about and set paths for career goals, and realize strengths that perhaps had been untapped in the past. Robotics
and Drama are two clubs that attract many students. Each year, the Counseling Department assists many 8th grade
students in applying to attend Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.
Starting in February of each school year, all students meet with their grade level counselor to discuss their
scheduling request. Students are given the opportunity to take a variety of classes including Extended Language Arts,
Extended Math, Enriched Science, Pre-AP Algebra I, Spanish I and/or French I in the eighth grade. Extended/enriched
classes contain a cross section of the student population. Students with disabilities are included in the general education
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classroom, when appropriate. All administrators and faculty have high expectations for academic success for all students.
Gainesville’s Student Support Team insures that interventions put in place to assist a student are monitored and improved
as the need arises in their classes.
Gainesville Middle School for the Arts and Sciences has embraced standards-based grading and the daily use of
student-friendly learning targets. These learning targets help students take ownership in their learning, as they are better
able to keep track of the standards they have mastered and with which ones they need assistance. All teachers differentiate
instruction and assessment, and offer students a variety of methods to demonstrate mastery, including retakes. Prior to
retaking assessments, teachers offer remediation to students to ensure their success on the various standards. Instead of
using standardized testing as an exclusive source of data, students are given a variety of opportunities to demonstrate
mastery, including performing speeches, skits, orally giving responses, providing reasoning for multiple answers, and
creating projects to demonstrate their mastery of standards.
Within the first month of school, all students visit the library and computer lab. During these two orientation
sessions, students learn about the resources available in the Media Center as well as gain access to personal online tools
through their individual Office 365 accounts. All students are included in classroom activities and have access to the
learning targets and curriculum for all classes. Technology is available to teachers and students through three standing
computer labs, numerous computer carts, and computers in the classrooms. All classrooms have Smartboards which
further enhance and enrich instruction and permit a variety of research methods.
Our vision and mission emphasize the fact that all students belong to each of us. Each year teachers are provided
with information about each child so that historical data is at their fingertips. They use the information to inform their
instruction. No child begins as a blank slate at Gainesville. With teaming at all levels, the student population is broken
into small groups which enables teachers to know all their students, and for students to bond together as a team to know
each other well. Students are made aware of with whom they can share problems, and counselors, administrators and all
adults in the building make it their mission to listen and care for each child. Our Student Support Team meets monthly to
discuss solutions for struggling students, and how we can best support them.
All of these traits are rewarded through the Principal’s Pride Awards, given every six weeks to students
nominated by their teams for reflecting what we believe is the model Gainesville citizen. Students who are respectful and
courteous, who are quick to help others, and who share their knowledge in their classroom are recognized with their
parents present. This is a highly attended event. Additionally, once every 9 weeks, we have a Positive Referral Day, where
teachers recognize students for their positive behaviors. Students can also receive a SCORE Card at any time from any
staff member when they are observed demonstrating Success through Courtesy, Organization, Respect, and Excellence.
These SCORE Cards are turned into the office, and each week students can earn prizes if their card is drawn. On the
academic side, each quarter, interdisciplinary teams attend an Honor Roll Assembly, where students who made the A/B
Honor Roll and the Principal’s Honor roll are recognized. Parents are invited to this event, and hundreds of parents attend
Since Gainesville opened ten years ago, the administration, staff, and all stakeholders have shared and maintained
the vision that it would be the best middle school in Prince William County. In many cases this has been achieved as
evidenced by outscoring all other middle schools in the school division on the 2016 Civics and Economics, Math, and
Science SOL tests. Each year we strive for excellence through engaging, rigorous, and meaningful instruction. Overall
school decisions are driven by conversations and decisions in our Middle School Council including team leaders,
department chairs as well as the School Advisory Council consisting of parents, staff members, and student
representatives. The vision and plan for the future are posted throughout the building and one line that is often quoted is,
“We are responsible for ALL students”.
Prince William County schools operate under site-based management so principals have full responsibility for
changes and plans. Through shared and collaborative leadership, plans for improvement are designed and implemented by
staff and monitored by administration. The School Advisory Council represents and assesses the needs of the community
and staff. The Advisory Council helps develop the School Plan and insures that it reflects the vision and mission of
Gainesville. The Advisory Council acts as an advisor to the school administration on the budget, implementation,
evaluation, and modifications of the School Plan. The School Advisory Council will identify concerns, obtain community
and staff feedback, and support the goals of the educational system. The Advisory Council is comprised of 6 parents and 6
teacher representatives, and meetings are open to any parent of Gainesville Middle School who would like to attend.
Academic reflection takes place for teachers within their Collaborative Teams as they analyze data and best
practices, and work to improve their instruction. For students, reflection revolves around the learning targets used in class.
Many teachers ask students to keep a list of learning targets within a unit. For each learning target, students reflect on their
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own knowledge – either “I’ve got it”, “I need to work on it”, or “I don’t get it.” These student self-reflections then assist
the teacher in providing re-learning opportunities before students participate in a summative assessment.
The school division provides professional development throughout the year to address weaknesses in a variety of
subjects that they determine to be necessary based on testing data. Site-based professional development is supplemental at
the school level to address the specific vision of the school. Rick Wormeli has visited Gainesville Middle School on
several occasions to emphasize standards-based instruction and grading at the middle level. Leadership teams from
Gainesville recently attended the ASCD conference and the Assessment Training Insititute and shared what they learned
with the whole staff. To aid Gainesville in its journey in standards-based grading, Myron Dueck, author of Grading
Smarter Not Harder, visited Gainesville in February 2017 to provide on-site training for all teachers. Gainesville also
provides regular, in-house professional development to assist teachers in building their skills in working with EL students.
This professional development, through collaboration with the district ESOL Office and the Center for Applied
Linguistics, centers on Sheltered Instruction, language goals, and strengthening academic vocabulary. Staff that teach
Sheltered Instruction classes meet monthly to discuss best practices and how to improve student progress.
Community partnerships are key to our success at Gainesville. Our PTO sponsors either a 5K or a Color Run race
each year, dozens of spirit nights with local businesses, and numerous fundraisers that support that initiative. Proceeds
from PTO events are used to acquire additional technology resources. Community businesses are also supportive of our
positive recognition programs for staff and students; gift cards and coupons to local restaurants and stores are provided
regularly as incentives