Charter Schools Reveal Hypocrisy and Incompetence of Loudoun and Albemarle School Leadership

Albemarle County Schools Superintendent Matt Haas

by James C. Sherlock

Some people are exactly who they say they are.

Not so with the Loudoun County and Albemarle School Boards and their superintendents. They are nationally famous for projecting moral superiority. They arrest lesser mortals for objecting in their presence to the policies they impose.

The public charter schools in those two counties provide ongoing rebukes to their faux-elite, hectoring wokeism.  

They offer charters at enormous public expense only to parents wealthier and whiter than the district as a whole. And none to poor and minority communities.

Yet even with enormous budgets and small classes they can’t get those select student bodies to outperform academically the rest of their districts.

We are thus witness to an absolutely perfect storm of hypocrisy and incompetence.

We have seen this movie before in Virginia. Loudoun and Albemarle County public charter schools are exactly what they seem.

All kids deserve a chance at a quality education. 

I have demonstrated in this space repeatedly with public data that Virginia does not provide it to many economically disadvantaged and minority kids in our public schools.  

Charter schools can help bridge the gulf. But there are only seven charter schools in Virginia today. One of those in Richmond has only 24 students.  

There are charter management organizations that specialize in seeking and providing world-class educations to poor and minority kids. But they don’t operate in Virginia because of our laws.

Instead we see charters like the three in Loudoun and Albemarle counties today.

None of those three serves economically disadvantaged and minority children in proportion to their presence in district schools, much less targets those children specifically for help.  

Indeed, each of those charters educates at great additional cost in small classes students considerably whiter and wealthier than average in those school districts. Yet somehow the children get educations without any measurable academic advantages over the other kids across the districts.

That must make sense to the Albemarle and Loudoun school boards, at least in private. Just not to me.

Loudoun County. There are two charter schools in Loudoun,

  • Middleburg Community Charter with 144 students K-5 in 2018-19,  24 kids per grade; and
  • Hillsboro Charter Academy near the West Virginia border in Purcellville, PK-5 with 143 kids, 20 kids per grade.

Loudoun County Public Schools. The demographics of the Loudoun County public school student population as a whole in 2018-19: Asian 22%; Black 7%; Hispanic 18%; multiple races 6%; white 47%; economically disadvantaged 19%; Homeless 2%.

Hillsboro Charter Academy. Purcellville is 89% white, 5% Asian and 4% Black and 2% mixed race. Hispanics can be of any race and are included in those totals. The white population is older than average; 74% of the households make over $100,000 per year. There is not much of a middle class. Children in about 20% of the households can qualify as economically disadvantaged.   

In 2018-19 Hillsboro Charter Academy in Purcellville had 143 kids. Students: 2.8% Asian; 2.8% Black; 6.3% Hispanic; 7.7% multiple races; 80% white. Economically disadvantaged 2.1% – three kids. English learners 1.4% – two kids. No category for homeless.

Hillsboro students in 2018-19 outperformed the district by two points in math SOLs and underperformed by four points in reading.

Middleburg Community Charter. The town of Middleburg has 656 residents, of whom 75% are white, 19% Black and 4% Asian and 1% mixed race.  A third of households make over $100,000 annually. Children in 45% of the households can qualify as economically disadvantaged.

Yet the 144 students of Middleburg Community Charter are 4% Asian, 4% Black, and 2% economically disadvantaged. Again, no category for homeless.

2018-2019 assessments. Middleburg Community Charter students in 2018-19 outperformed the district in reading by two points and underperformed by one point in math.

Hillsboro Charter Academy outperformed the district by two points in math and underperformed by 4 points in reading.

The costs in 2019-20. Per-pupil public school spending at Middleburg Charter is $21,065. At Hillsboro $19,930. Divisionwide $15,507

There are no charter schools in the heavily Black and Hispanic areas of Loudoun. You know, where they might actually make a difference.

Albemarle County. Albemarle County Public Schools is a “uniquely antiracist school district,” says Matt Haas, Ed.D.,  Superintendent. 


Albemarle County is one of the wealthiest school districts in Virginia and home to the School of Education and Human Development of the University of Virginia.  

Albemarle had two charter schools, a middle school (Community Public Charter) and a high school (Murray), until this year when they merged into Community Lab School. The merged school has 162 students this year in grades 6-12. Twenty three students per grade.

The district had 14,013 students in 2018-19. So just over 1% of Albemarle County public school students attended Community Lab School. 

2018-19 assessments. Mathematics in middle school. In 2018-19, the middle school (7th grade) mathematics pass rates of Albemarle public school students were 83% all students, 89% white, 62% Black, 69% Hispanic and 67% economically disadvantaged students.  

In that same year the middle school part of the now merged Community Lab School had mathematics pass rates of 71% all students, not enough Black students to publish a score, not enough Hispanic students to publish a score and a 67% pass rate for the relatively few economically disadvantaged students. Short version: the Community Lab School middle school kids performed worse than the district as a whole in math.

Reading in middle school.  The 2018-19 middle school (Grade 7) reading pass rates for students in that district overall were 81% all students, 89% white, 58% Black, 60% Hispanic, and 53% economically disadvantaged students. The district had 1,350, nearly 10% English Learners.  

The middle school kids in what is now Community Lab School had reading pass rates of 82% for all students, 81% for white students, not enough Black students or Hispanic students to publish a score and 82% for economically disadvantaged students. The charter school had four English Learners.

High school math. Albemarle County Schools students had an 83% Algebra 2 pass rate.  Community Lab School students had the same result.

High school reading. Albemarle County Schools had a 87% pass rate in EOC reading. The high school component of Community Lab School had a 100% pass rate. 


  • Albemarle public schools are 10.8% Black, 13.2% Hispanic and 29.4% economically disadvantaged. 
  • Community Lab School is 3.7% Black, 8.6% Hispanic and 22% economically disadvantaged.

The costs in 2019-20:

  • Community Lab School $23,787 per pupil. 
  • Division wide $12,766. You read that right.

Community Lab School and its predecessors:

  • demonstrated no widespread academic advantages over the rest of the school district despite small class sizes; and 
  • have considerably fewer economically disadvantaged and minority kids by percentage than does the district as a whole.

Bottom line. Next time the Boards or Superintendents of Albemarle and Loudoun County schools want to lecture the rest of us about systemic racism or claim superior morality, cultural awareness and sympathy for the poor and minorities, save it. (That’s the nicest way I can say it.)

Instead, they can join Governor Youngkin in trying to change current laws on charter schools to let Virginia attract charter management organizations proven to help those who most need it.

Perhaps I can help the superintendents locate the new charters.

On second thought, perhaps not.