Burley Middle School

Burley Middle School is an anomaly in that it’s the only non-charter Albemarle County school that sits completely within Charlottesville City limits. It cannot be a neighborhood school because all the neighborhoods that it serves are miles aways. Burley was the consolidated African American school for the city and county in the late 1950s and early 1960s before segregation was ended.
Burley’s footprint extends back from Rose Hill Drive in a series of parallel and perpendicular hallways. A hidden treasure sits on the front hallway– a large auditorium with a balcony that rivals other public spaces in the city and county. The original ticket office still stands in one corner.
Burley is one of the few schools that I have visited that has a sense of history to it. There are pictures of the African American graduating classes in the hallways. There are murals on the walls. I haven’t yet visited Broadus Wood or Stony Point– the two county schools housed in buildings older than Burley– but only Burley, Murray High School and Red Hill have had a noticeable sense of students who have come before and highlighted history beyond this moment. Certainly there are plaques at various schools of gifts “in honor of”, but at many of the schools the focus has been on a blank slate for the current students to make their own important, but ephemeral mark.
Burley is unique amongst the Albemarle County middle schools in that all 6th grade students are required to take a music elective. Students can choose between band, choir, strings, and a non-performance music appreciation course. Principal Asher said that having such a strong music program has brought the Burley community together, and creates a common language and bond. The winning trophies from musical competitions are proudly displayed throughout the main office.
Another way that Principal Asher is hoping to create common vocabulary and standards, has been the creation and implementation of rubric of student writing standards. This table describes strong, average, needing improved, and needing attention work across three strands, central idea & support, word choice & vocabulary, and mechanics & usage, and is to be used by all teachers in all subject matter. If students turn in work that falls into the “needs attention” category, then the work is to be returned, and redone in order to be accepted. To be considered “needs attention”, work would be missing capital letters or end of sentence punctuation or be a run-on sentence. By having a clear and understandable rubric that all teachers use– language arts and social studies teachers, as well as math and science– it reinforces that these are consistent writing standards that all students must adhere to, and that clear communication is valued in all subjects.
This language arts rubric was written and modified last year, with school-wide implementation taking place this year and last. Principal Asher hopes to begin the process of identifying and creating the next school-wide subject rubric this upcoming year.

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