History and Mission: Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) opened the Academy of Science in the 2005-06 academic year; the current senior class is the third group of students to complete four years of study at the AOS. Students attend the AOS for the science/math/research core while attending their home high schools on alternating days. The mission of AOS is to provide an academic environment where students are encouraged to develop creative scientific endeavors of their own design, while having the opportunity to pursue a rich, well-rounded high school experience. This schedule enables students to maintain involvement in academic and extra-curricular activities at their home school while participating in a rigorous, research-based math and science program.
Admissions: Students are offered admission to the Academy of Science through a competitive process during the eighth grade year. Students and their parents/guardians must be residents of Loudoun County at the time of their application. Students are selected on the basis of a holistic review of their application, standardized test scores, middle school transcript, teacher recommendations, and a personal essay. The 2009-10 admissions cycle offered enrollment to 16 percent of applicants. Student motivation and a passion for science and mathematics are the most valuable characteristics of successful AOS applicants. Highly motivated students who are consistent, dedicated learners have the greatest chance of success.
Instruction: The faculty of the AOS is developing a national model for teaching inquiry-based, interdisciplinary science and math. The cornerstone of instruction is a two-year inquiry-based, integrated physical science course, which includes the study of Earth Science, Chemistry, and Physics followed in junior year by a project-based Biology course. Students participate in a three-year science research program beginning with an introductory research course in tenth grade. The science research courses are geared toward developing scientific habits of mind, as well as integrating math, writing, and communication skills into scientific experimentation. Students are required to develop a two-year research project of their own design working independently and collaboratively with peers, mentors, and scientists. Guidance is provided by faculty mentors on campus and from scientists from the regional network of universities and organizations as needed. The cornerstone of math instruction throughout the program is a unique math/science integration that accentuates the understanding of math principles rather than repetition of rote process. Juniors are enrolled in a minimum of AP Calculus AB or BC and by senior year, BC or multivariable calculus. Some students will extend past multivariable calculus. A concentration of modeling/statistics is incorporated at all levels.