Proposal to Create Advanced Academic Program Center at Lanier MS - Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs on Proposal to Create AAP Center at Lanier MS

What are the requirements for teachers to be certified to teach AAP?

In accordance with Virginia Department of Education licensure requirements, Lanier MS teachers, like all FCPS teachers, are required to hold a valid Virginia teaching license. Additionally, teachers may be required to hold endorsements in special areas.  FCPS Regulation 3335 requires teachers who teach less than five sections of Level IV and/or Honors classes to complete one three-credit gifted education course. Teachers who teach five or more sections of Level IV and/or Honors classes are required to complete the FCPS Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) endorsement, which includes earning 12 credits from gifted education courses within five years. Teachers at Lanier, as well as most other centers, teach a combination of Level IV, Honors, and/or General Education classes. The Lanier staff believes it is important for teachers working with advanced students to complete the full AAP endorsement, even if teaching less than five sections.

To prepare for the additional students from the feeder elementary school, how many more AAP certified teachers need to be hired at Lanier? Will teachers be moved so experienced Level IV teachers are at Lanier?

The exact number of additional teachers hired to teach AAP classes will depend on the number of students who enroll. Lanier currently has six teachers teaching the AAP Level IV students. Four already hold the AAP endorsement, and the rest are currently taking courses and will earn the endorsement by next year.

Have any of Lanier’s current teachers ever taught AAP courses before? If teachers are trained for AAP, how will they compare to more “experienced” teachers that have been teaching AAP classes?

Because AAP Level IV and Honors courses use the same standards and curriculum, Lanier Honors teachers have taught AAP courses. AAP Level IV and Honors courses are based on extensions to the FCPS Program of Studies. For a number of years, AAP Level IV eligible students have chosen to attend Lanier and receive Level IV services by taking four Honors courses. Additionally, Lanier MS offers math acceleration through Algebra I Honors and face-to-face Geometry classes. In 2017-18, a large number of Lanier-based students chose to attend Lanier, allowing us to cluster; those students in the same classes, thereby giving teachers experience teaching all center-eligible students in the same classes.

Will Lanier teachers be trained for AAP curriculum?

All FCPS middle school teachers are trained in AAP middle school curriculum through professional development provided by content area specialists. In addition, AAP teachers participate in summer and winter professional learning institutes to learn AAP instructional strategies and curriculum provided by experienced AAP teachers as well as national consultants in gifted curriculum. 

What is the difference between honors and AAP?

There is no difference between the Honors and AAP Level IV courses curriculum. Only center-eligible students will be placed in Level IV AAP classes, and Honors AAP classes are open access to all students.

Will there be enough time to make changes to the program between January and August with teachers working full time and trying to adjust to a new program?

Lanier has a strong instructional program and will continue to offer students a range of curricular offerings including enrichment opportunities both during and after school. Every school works to improve their programs and opportunities based on the needs of the students. The AAP teachers will continue to use the AAP curriculum, as well as continue their professional development by taking AAP courses and attending professional learning workshops with other AAP teachers across the county. Lanier’s instructional program will continue to grow, as all schools do, and we remain committed to providing high quality, rigorous learning experiences for all students.

Will Lanier have both Honors and level IV?

Yes. All FCPS middle schools, including Lanier, have open-enrollment Honors classes. Lanier will continue to offer open Honors classes as well as clustering Level IV center-eligible students in the same classes, just as all centers do.

What supports exist for Twice Exceptional students?

Lanier teachers work with school counselors, special education teachers, and other support staff to meet the academic and emotional needs of all students. IEP’s and 504 Plans are reviewed and followed so the student’s academic potential will be realized while receiving necessary supports.

Is the AAP math program at Lanier on par with that of Rocky Run?

The AAP math program at Lanier follows the same course sequence and FCPS program of studies as Rocky Run and the teachers at both schools have the required certification in the math courses they teach.  Lanier mathematics teachers will continue to engage in professional development and collaboration with other teachers of advanced math courses to prepare all students for numerous secondary mathematics course options. 

What AAP math classes are offered to 7th graders?

Math courses are not tied to AAP eligibility and are based on each child’s readiness.

Mathematics 7 Honors is open enrollment for all 7th grade students. This course is an acceleration of mathematics curriculum which requires students to master the content assessed on the Mathematics 8 SOL assessment.

Algebra I Honors is open enrollment for all 8th grade students; however, just as in all centers, there are specific requirements for enrollment in Algebra I Honors in 7th grade:

  • Successful completion of the Advanced Mathematics Grade 6 curriculum or a year-long accelerated mathematics program
  • Score at or above the 91st percentile on the Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test (IAAT)
  • Score a pass advanced (500 or above) on the grade 7 mathematics Standards of Learning (SOL) test

If the child qualifies for Math 7 Algebra I Honors in 7th grade, what are the options for Math when they are in 8th grade?

Students are eligible to take Geometry Honors after successfully completing Algebra I Honors. Lanier has and will continue to offer face-to-face Geometry Honors classes for eligible students.

Why can non-AAP students join advanced math? They will have missed a year of math.

All Honors classes in FCPS are open access. Students who have not completed Advanced Mathematics 6 may need support and/or require additional effort and study to be successful in Math 7 Honors. Some students are developmentally ready to accelerate their math content in 7th grade, and if they are willing to work to catch up, can be very successful in Math 7 Honors classes. Both Math 7 and Math 7 Honors prepare students for Algebra 1 or Algebra 1 Honors in Grade 8.

Is math 7 Honors the same as Algebra?

No. Math 7 Honors a different course, which includes 8th grade content (pre-Algebra). Algebra I Honors is a required high school level course.

Are AAP and non-AAP students mixed in the same group and same classroom?

Level IV eligible students are assigned to classes with other Level IV eligible students for English, social studies, and science classes. Students are grouped heterogeneously for Physical Education/Health, electives, and mathematics classes.

When exactly will Lanier be an AAP center?

Please refer to the document outlining options.  Both options would designate Lanier as an FCPS assigned center in September 2018; however, the timelines differ regarding when both 7th and 8th grade students must attend the Lanier MS center.

Does one option provide greater benefit vs the other for the students and their families?

Please refer to the document outlining options. The difference between Option 1 and Option 2 is the length of transition time for students to have the option of attending either center.  Feedback is being collected from the community because families may feel one option would be more beneficial than the other.

Will students currently in 7th grade at Rocky Run’s AAP center be allowed to remain there for 8th grade, to avoid having to transition to new schools three years in a row (to Rocky Run for 7th grade, to Lanier for 8th grade, and to Fairfax in 9th grade)? If yes, will bus transportation continue to be provided?

Yes, current 7th graders may continue at the middle school they currently attend. Yes, bus transportation will be provided to both centers.

When will the final decision be made?

The Fairfax County School Board will vote in January 2018.

Preparation for 7th grade begins early in 2018. It is not fair to 6th grade students to tell them in January or February they will be required to go to a different school.

How long does it take for students to prepare to change schools?

We don’t wish to move our 7th grade son to another school just for one year.

With Option 1, rising 7th grade students have the choice to attend Lanier or Rocky Run for the 2018-19 school year.

Are there certain economic benefits (i.e. less expense) in implementing Option 1 vs Option 2?

No significant economic benefits or costs are associated with Option 1 vs. Option 2.

Would additional stress be placed on the school administration/faculty if Option 1 was implemented vs Option 2?

Lanier Middle School is ready to accept and serve all Lanier-based Level IV students in the 2018-19 school year.

For Level IV students entering 7th grade at Lanier, what guarantees are there that the teachers and courses are at the same caliber as what is offered at Rocky Run? Will there be any setbacks to the child’s curriculum due to this being the first year of AAP at Lanier?

Lanier is fully prepared to be designated a center in the 2017-2018 school year and has consistently offered advanced academics curriculum and extension for our students. We look forward to the opportunity to serve our entire community. Opening of new centers in FCPS is done with careful consideration of readiness involving multiple departments, including Instructional Services/the AAP office, to ensure same caliber and quality of learning as existing level IV centers. 

What are the advantages of going to Lanier and going to Rocky Run?

Currently, Lanier-based students eligible for Level IV AAP services who wish to attend a center are assigned to Rocky Run Middle School, which is in the Chantilly pyramid. Opening a new center at Lanier Middle School would allow these students to stay within their (home) feeder pyramid in grades 7-12 as they will all attend Fairfax High School.  Lanier will become a “community school” – servicing all students who live within its boundary. For many Lanier students, this will mean being able to access high level curriculum with a peer group while spending less time in transport to a level IV center.  It will also allow students to develop friendships with other students who will attend the same high school.

How many kids will be AAP at Lanier vs Honors? 

This will vary from year to year, dependent upon how many students are eligible at each grade level.  According to recent trends, there are approximately 100 center-eligible students at both seventh and eighth grade levels for whom Lanier is their base middle school.  With Lanier’s current enrollment of approximately 963 students, the addition of the center-eligible students would compose about 17% of our school’s population.  Currently, we are proud that 65% of our students are in one or more honors classes.  

How many total students enrolled at Lanier and how many are eligible for AAP? 

­­­­­­­Lanier currently has an enrollment of 963 students with 70 students who are Level IV eligible

Does Lanier have enough space for all the AAP students that will be attending it? 

Yes.  When the decision was made to pursue a center program at Lanier, both current and projected capacity were considered. 

Is there research that documents that children who track away from their base school are somehow disadvantaged? Why the focus on keeping kids in the pyramid?

Keeping students within the pyramid reduces time in transport on busses and allows students to develop relationships with other students who will attend the same high school, where there is open access to Advanced Academic courses. 

If Lanier has AAP eligible cluster teaching for kids who choose to return to their base school for 7th and 8th grade, why create a center? Why change things?

Lanier has the building capacity, the instructional readiness, and the critical mass of AAP eligible students required to serve as a center for students within the Fairfax High School boundaries.  In addition to the benefits of reduced transportation time for many students, the community school environment will allow all students who will matriculate from Lanier to Fairfax High School to stay together in middle school.

If Honors and AAP are the same, why offer Level IV through 8th grade? Why not cut Level IV after 6th grade?

Advanced students have unique academic and social-emotional needs. Learning with a peer group with similar cognitive abilities and having teachers who are trained in understanding the needs of advanced learners will help advanced students thrive academically and emotionally during the critical middle school years. While the standards and curriculum are the same in Honors and Level IV AAP classes, the pacing, depth/complexity and types of scaffolds that are employed may differ in honors and level IV classrooms. Having a center program at Lanier will raise the level of instruction and increases learning for all students as the teachers collaborate on meaningful, rigorous work as well as strategies for making it accessible to all students.

How many AAP kids take Algebra I in 7th grade? 

28 seventh-grade students are currently taking Algebra I Honors at Lanier. 

As of today, there are 65 different after school programs offered at Rocky Run. There are 25 at Lanier. What is the plan to improve the offerings at Lanier?

Lanier’s after-school program is exceptional with some of the highest daily membership totals in Fairfax County. We are proud of the diversity and integrity of the after school clubs we offer and have fostered high-quality, high-interest activities that meet the needs and interests of our students.  Our program is organic in that many of our clubs are student initiated and student led. 

How does the structure of the Rocky Run program align with the Lanier Center program given that there are no Lanier students that went to TJ when 37 from RR went to TJ? What changes will be made to Lanier?

It is impractical to infer that students were admitted to TJ because they attended a specific middle school, or whether they would also have been admitted if they had attended Lanier. If Lanier becomes an AAP center, the center-eligible students will attend Lanier instead of Rocky Run. The data for AAP eligible students in 2016-17 show that there were 50 students attending TJ whose base school was Rocky Run and 55 students whose base school was Lanier.

I am very concerned about the social environment here at Lanier MS and how an AAP Level IV center will impact our school.  AAP will be emphasized by school and create disparity between overachievers and average students? Also the continuation of the social aspect is important as his (AAP) friends have been with him for the fourth year now.

The socio-emotional well-being of all students is especially important during the middle school years.  The Lanier staff understands that social engagement is an important aspect of the students’ well-being, and contributes to their learning.  Lanier has always had Level IV students who choose to stay at their community school. Serving all Lanier-based students in their community school will enrich the entire school community. We value and have high expectations for all of our students and there will not be disparity between any groups of students.

Rocky Run currently has 1:1 computers. Computers are assigned at the beginning of the year. Will they be available to all students at Lanier next year?

Lanier also has a 1:1 program for almost half of its student population, with a strategic plan to expand to the entire school over the next few years.

How are the boundaries decided?

The Facilities Planning Office ensures that all FCPS students can learn and grow in the best possible space. Office staff members constantly update and review information on population growth and trends as well as residential construction. At the same time, the office reviews and updates the state of nearly 200 FCPS facilities. The office takes into consideration and creates reports on student accommodation, school enrollment projections by grade level, and attendance area adjustment recommendations.