Parents May Review New Middle School Advisory Curriculum

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Henley Middle School. Photo: Lisa Martin.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after the print edition with links as they became available after the meeting. 

After piloting a middle school anti-racism curriculum at Henley Middle School in the spring of 2021 that generated significant controversy among Henley families, including a lawsuit against school division officials, the Albemarle County school division is offering an overhauled Advisory curriculum set to begin this fall. Introduced during a school board work session on August 25, the set of lessons will be available for public review through September 22, when it will be voted on by the board.

ACPS Director of Secondary Education Jay Thomas described the new curriculum as one that “supports the whole child by building skills that empower students to fulfill their highest potential as collaborative, thoughtful, caring and successful individuals and contributors to their school and broader communities.” The proposed curriculum includes lessons on digital citizenship, career pathway awareness, identity development, and a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) component (for seventh and eighth graders).

YPAR was described by school officials as “an innovative approach to positive youth and community development based in [sic] social justice principles in which young people are trained to conduct systematic research to improve their lives, their communities, and the institutions intended to serve them.” The new curriculum will be taught on Wednesdays during students’ Advisory period—a 45-minute block built into every school day designed for students to be able to receive academic guidance and participate in school community-building and self-actualization activities.

The proposed curriculum, intended for students in grades 6-8, will be available through September 22 on the third floor of the Albemarle County Office Building, at 401 McIntire Road in Charlottesville. Community members may review the Advisory curriculum between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on school holidays. Upon arrival, community members should check in with the third-floor receptionist.

“We are following the same practice that has been in place for many years,” said school division spokesman Phil Giaramita when asked about the in-person viewing process. “Learning resources, whether in the form of textbooks, research materials, or changes or additions to curricula, always have been expressly made available in the central office. If parents have an interest or concern about the advisory lessons, they should talk with their child’s principal.”

Links to some of the Advisory curriculum frameworks, sample lessons, and slide decks were provided in the School Board agenda:

Identity & YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research):

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-1OsdDNUnKGNM6TJX0VmABHNttyrBhoz?usp=sharing 

Pathway Exploration:


School Board meeting presentation slides:

https://esb.k12albemarle.org/attachments/c6f4dd03-73ac-4106-8306-71884eb482c1.pdf

To view the school board meeting presentation about the new curriculum, visit the school division’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/k12albemarle, and click on the August 25 school board meeting under the videos tab.  

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Lisa Martin joined the Gazette in 2017 and writes about education and local government. She also writes in-depth pieces about division-wide education issues and broader investigative pieces on topics from recycling to development to living with wildlife. Her Coyotes in Crozet story won a 2017 Virginia Press Association “Best in Show” award for the Gazette. Martin has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, taught college for several years, and writes fiction and poetry. She co-authored a children’s trilogy about two adventuring cats, the Anton and Cecil series, which got rave reviews from the New York Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and others.

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