Superintendent’s Memo #240-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

August 26, 2011

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  English and Mathematics Capstone Course Implementation

The Department of Education, in collaboration with higher education and business and industry, has been engaged in a college- and career-readiness initiative to:

  1. Define college- and career-readiness performance expectations aligned to state and national college- and career-readiness standards;
  2. Develop elective “capstone courses” to support students who need additional instruction to meet college- and career-readiness performance expectations before leaving high school; and
  3. Deliver technical assistance and professional development to secondary educators to support implementation of English and mathematics college- and career-readiness performance expectations.

Complete information about Virginia’s College and Career Readiness Initiative is available at

The purpose of this e-mail is to: 1) ask if your school division is or will be offering either the English or mathematics capstone courses during the 2011-2012 school year; 2) provide the course codes for the courses; and 3) provide information on curricular resources that are being developed to support the courses.

Survey of English and Mathematics Capstone Course Offerings for 2011-2012

The Department of Education is aware that several school divisions are piloting the capstone courses this year.  We are interested in following the success of these courses and would also like to share resources with schools that are paving the way in this initiative.

If your school division is implementing either of the capstone courses during the 2011-2012 school year, during either semester, we would appreciate your letting the Department know by responding to by September 16, 2011. Please include the name of the high school and the time frame in which the course will be offered (full-year, first semester, second semester).  If you are also interested in receiving updates on future curriculum and resource development for the courses, please provide the name, position, and e-mail address for the individual who should receive this information.

Course Codes

The following course codes have been designated for the capstone courses:

1176 - Grade 12 English Capstone Course
3136 – Grade 12 Mathematics Capstone Course

While the courses offered by divisions are not required to carry these course titles, consistent use of the prescribed course codes will provide the Department and school divisions with data to follow the success of students enrolled in the courses as they continue their studies beyond high school to determine if they are having the desired impact.  Courses that use these numbers should be aligned with the English and Mathematics Performance Expectations.

The Department of Education is working to identify codes for these courses under the Secondary School Course Classification System: School Codes for the Exchange of Data (SCED) that schools are moving toward.  However, they are not available at this time.

Curricular Resources to Support the English and Mathematics Capstone Courses

The English and Mathematics Capstone Courses are designed to be offered during the senior year to students who will complete their graduation requirements at the end of the school year but who may need an additional boost for successful entry into college and careers.  The courses are aligned with Virginia’s English Performance Expectations and Mathematics Performance Expectations. The Performance Expectations define the level of achievement students must reach to be academically prepared for success in entry-level credit-bearing college courses. They were developed through a process that involved faculty from Virginia's two- and four-year colleges and universities, members of the business community, and high school educators.

The content for these courses is described on the Department of Education’s Web site:

English Capstone Course Content
Mathematics Capstone Course Content

Four universities have been working to develop course syllabi, instructional modules, and problem-based units to support both capstone courses.  The University of Virginia (UVA) and Radford University are working with interested school divisions in the area of mathematics.  The English course development is provided by The College of William and Mary (W&M) and James Madison University (JMU).

Over 60 teachers from divisions partnering with UVA or Radford participated in Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grant activities this summer and continuing this school year that provide sustained professional development on the Mathematics Performance Expectations.  Participants will be working with faculty to develop problem-based learning units that connect, apply, and extend the Performance Expectations. By September 2011, these units will be posted for public access via the Department of Education’s Web site along with rubrics, instructional strategies, and student self-assessments for use in schools piloting the capstone course.  Additional problem-based units will be available in the spring of 2012. For more information about the UVA program, please contact Ms. Vickie Inge, Director, Mathematics Outreach, University of Virginia, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, by e-mail at or by phone at (434) 982-4946. For more information about the Radford program, please contact Dr. Agida Manizade, Associate Professor, Radford University, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, by e-mail at or by phone at (540) 831-5133.

The first English Capstone Academy was held on August 8-9, 2011, at W&M, and follow-up sessions are planned for this fall. A series of modules or lesson plans and a sample course syllabus based on the English Performance Expectations are being developed and will be available later this fall on the Virginia Department of Education’s Web site. A second English Capstone Academy will take place at JMU in the summer of 2012. For additional information on the English Capstone professional development, contact Dr. Jan Rozzelle by telephone at (757) 221-2236 or by e-mail at or Dr. Gay Ivey by telephone at (540) 568-3698 or by e-mail at

If you have questions about Virginia’s College and Career Readiness Initiative, please feel free to contact Dr. Linda Wallinger, assistant superintendent for instruction, at (804) 225-2034 or  Specific questions about the Mathematics Capstone Course may also be addressed to Mr. Michael Bolling, mathematics coordinator, at (804) 786-6418 or  Questions about the English Capstone Course may be addressed to Mrs. Tracy Robertson, English coordinator, at (804) 371-7585 or