In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Introduction ————— The Promised Land is changing. The ultimate destination for generations of hardworking citizens—the American suburb—is experiencing shifts of tectonic proportions. Tranquil subdivisions are being displaced by high density housing. Traffic congestion in the suburbs now rivals or exceeds that of urban areas. Crime and poverty also have moved to the suburbs. Once the proud bastion of white America, the suburbs increasingly attract residents representing diverse races, cultures, and languages. A central assumption of this book is that the sweeping changes washing over suburbia can be understood better by examining changes in suburban education. I shall focus on one suburban area—Fairfax County, Virginia—and its school system—Fairfax County Public Schools or FCPS. Fairfax County, of course, is not just any suburban area. It is one of, if not the wealthiest counties in the United States. Strategically located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the 399-square-mile county is home to over a million residents . The school system that serves Fairfax County is no ordinary school system either. As of 2004, FCPS was the nation’s 12th largest school district, with over 166,000 students and an annual budget of over $1.5 billion. Thirteen percent of all students in Virginia are enrolled in the 241 schools and centers of FCPS. The organizational structure of the district, which employs more than 21,000 professional and nonprofessional workers, is comparable to that of a Fortune 500 company. When considering Fairfax County and its school system, it is tempting to dwell on size, but there is more to the story than big enrollments and big budgets. Fairfax County is also the land of big 1 expectations. What makes FCPS such a fascinating focus for inquiry has been the school system’s ability, year in and year out, to meet many of these big expectations. FCPS has changed over the years to meet the changing needs of its population and shifting economic and political circumstances without diminishing its reputation for educational excellence. Unlike many once-great school systems, FCPS has eschewed complacency and refused to rest on its laurels. The story of Fairfax County Public Schools, while certainly not an educational fairy tale, is a chronicle of continuing commitment to quality education for all students. Over most of the last half century, Fairfax has graduated an impressive percentage of its students and sent a substantial number of them on to higher education, often at some of the nation’s leading colleges and universities. The school system’s flagship magnet school—Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology—is arguably the top high school in the United States. Thomas Jefferson administers more Advanced Placement tests than any other high school and boasts an outstanding record for scholarships and academic awards. It is one type of accomplishment for a single school to achieve success and quite another for an entire school system to do so. When that school system includes 241 schools and centers, and 91 percent of them are meeting or exceeding state accreditation standards—a 70 percent pass rate in various subjects among all students in each school—the achievement is truly remarkable (Helderman and Keating, 2002). The handful of schools that are not meeting standards are targeted for special assistance and allocated additional resources. The district’s handbook for 2003-2004 proudly noted the following achievements: • 90 percent of high school graduates continue on to some form of postsecondary education. • The dropout rate for FY 2001 fell to 1.9 percent, lower than the averages for Virginia and for the nation. • FCPS seniors who took the SAT in 2002 had an average combined score of 1,096. This far exceeds the average combined scores of 1,016 in Virginia and 1,020 in the nation. • 95 percent of FCPS special education program students were working or attending school or both six to nine months following graduation. • In FY 2000, 67.6 percent of graduates earned advanced diplomas. Fairfax’s track record of success is a major reason for its choice as the focus of this book. A strong case can be made, in fact, that 2 Education Empire Fairfax County Public Schools is the best school system in the nation. When Fairfax hired a consulting firm in the late nineties to study exemplary school systems and identify benchmarks that could be used in guiding improvement efforts, the consultants reported that they had difficulty completing their assignment. In their field work they discovered that FCPS was...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.