Arlington Co. Schools receive sobering report on student literacy

Supervisors with Arlington County’s English Language Arts Program submitted a report to the school board that highlights the challenges in meeting student literacy needs.

According to the report, about 19% of county students were classified in what is known as the red “at risk” category when looking at literacy skills.

For Black students, the number placed in the at risk category in grades 3-5 has increased, while Hispanic students have seen increases in grades four and five.

Three schools require intervention for 50-60% of the student population, according to the report. It also says that for six other schools, in which 40-60% of students need intervention, more staff will be required to meet those needs.

Lori Silver, an ELA Secondary Supervisor, stressed the importance of support, collaboration and access to resources during the presentation Thursday.

“This year has been a challenging one for our APS educators and students as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic,” said Silver. “Our teachers are instructors of English content, they’re not trained to be reading teachers. We will expand their knowledge base to include how to address the profound reading needs of our students.”

The report proposes other solutions to literacy challenges at the elementary school level, which include small group instruction, phonics lessons and other interventions.

Silver said additional reading specialists and ELA teachers will complete their training this summer and may help move those efforts forward.

On a positive note, the report showed an increase in student proficiency among Title I schools. Elementary ELA Supervisor Sarah Cruise says that added proficiency will eliminate the opportunity gap for those students later on. Black and Hispanic students in kindergarten and first grade have also seen a 5-7% increase in their writing proficiency.

Though many of the numbers may seem pessimistic, there have been marginal improvements. With the exception of fourth-grade students, the report states the total number of EL learners in the red “at risk” category has actually decreased since the last reporting period.

“These accomplishments come from our dedicated professionals working innovatively with students and staff,” said Cruise.

Read the complete report on Arlington’s latest English Language Arts program here.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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