Arlington shares promising standardized test results among most vulnerable students

Students in Arlington, Virginia, made strides in several subjects last year but saw a minor decline in writing, according to standardized test score data shared with the school board last week.

Overall, the county reported a four-point increase in math and a seven-point improvement in social studies. All subgroups of students improved their science scores, too, the county said, while reading scores remained about the same.

The latest data is from the Virginia standardized test known as the Standards of Learning, which students took last school year.

In addition to general gains, Arlington reported score increases in math, science and social studies for Black and Hispanic students, English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. However, the pass rate for the county’s economically disadvantaged kids was, in some instances, lower than the statewide average pass rate, Chief Academic Officer Gerald Mann said.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said. “We (have) more work to do, and we’re going to continue to dig deeper in that.”

While all subgroups improved their scores in multiple subjects, the average pass rate in reading remained the same at 80%. Arlington recently changed its approach to how it teaches young learners to read, particularly using the Science of Reading method, which emphasizes phonics.

But still, Mann said, “As we look at reading, this is one place that we know we have a lot of work to do.”

The school system, he said, did see a slight increase among fifth graders, compared to last year. It also reported a 10-point gain in kindergarten students meeting fall literacy benchmarks — an increase from 81% in 2021-22 to 91% last year.

Writing scores, meanwhile, declined. Last year, Arlington reported a 74% pass rate among eighth graders, compared to 75% the year before. And for students who took the End Of Course English writing test, 84% passed, compared to 86% last year.

The writing test, though, asks students to read and respond to a science or social studies text, so, “that’s very different than writing a fairy tale or writing a biography, or something of that nature. We want students to have exposure to all kinds of writing,” Durán said.

Some tweaks to the curriculum should help to address the dip in writing scores, according to school board documents.

Separately, the county said it had a 93.5% on-time graduation rate last year, its highest since 2008.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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