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Schools advise families to prepare for winter weather

If the weather outside is frightful, county schools want parents and students to be prepared.

With the threat of wintry mix coming on Sunday and Monday, the school system has publicized information and tips for what families can expect if severe weather hits the area this winter.

Rather than wait for unpredictable weather, officials advise parents to make precautionary arrangements now for late school dropoffs, early school pickups and child care. Parents should inform their children of these plans as well.

The county aims to decide on weather-related school delays or full-day closings before 4:30 a.m., so the information can be posted to the school website and distributed to media outlets by 5 a.m. If severe weather is forecasted to hit during the day, officials try to decide by 10:30 a.m. whether schools will close two hours early.

However, the school system cautions that these goals cannot always be achieved, as weather conditions can change quickly. The safety of students is the priority in potentially dangerous weather.

When schools are closed for the day, start late or close early, that information will be communicated both through the school system and through local news organizations. The alert will go out on the FCPS website, www.fcps.edu, and on its television channel, Channel 21. It will also be posted on the FCPS Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sent as an e-mail to parents through Keep in Touch notification system, which you can sign up for at www.fcps.edu/kit.



U.S. students Continue to lag in international test

Scores in reading, math and science from 15-year-olds in the United States lagged behind other countries, according to results from a highly-regarded international assessment released Tuesday.

Students from the United States posted average scores in reading and science and below average scores in math compared to students in the 64 other countries and international bodies that took the test in 2012.

Since the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam was first taken in 2000, it has rapidly become a measuring stick for a country’s education system. This year’s results follow a trend that has continued since that first test, with U.S. students turning in a mediocre performance compared to their international peers.

The test is given every three years to a statistical sampling of 15-year-olds in countries around the world. The PISA exam, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), aims to measure students’ ability to apply academic knowledge to real-world problems.

For the first time this year, three states - Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida - had more students take the test so each state could get individual results and an international comparison.

Virginia may join their company for the 2015 test. The state Board of Education requested that General Assembly approve $600,000 in the next budget to pay for the required testing for separate results in the 2015 test.

Fairfax County last year participated in a pilot program offering a modified version of the test, allowing their local results to be compared to the international PISA benchmarks. This year, that program will expand to all county high schools.