With tens of thousands of children out of a classroom, School Board focused instead on racism training
Prince William County’s youngest and most vulnerable students are struggling to read.
New Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening data for the Prince William County School Division obtained exclusively by PLN show an alarming increase of students from kindergarten through third grade who need reading help. The test, required by the Virginia Department of Education to be given to children in the aforementioned grade levels, is used to identify gaps that could hinder the development of a child’s reading skills.
While schools throughout the county are reporting growing large increases in the number of students who need reading help, most of the worst-performing schools are in the Woodbridge area.
- Maurumsco Hills Elementary increased 50 points over 2019
- 70% now identified for early reading intervention.
- Featherstone Elementary School increased 48 points over 2019
- 69% now identified for early reading intervention.
- Kilby Elementary School increased 36 points over 2019
- 56% now identified for early reading intervention.
- Vaughn Elementary School increased by 35 points over 2019
- 55% now identified for early reading intervention.
- Belmont Elementary School increased by 30 points over 2019
- 56% now identified for early reading intervention
- Neabsco Elementary School increased 29 points over 2019
- 51% now identified for early reading intervention.
Schools in the Manassas area weren’t spared, either.
- West Gate Elementary School increased by 53 points over 2019
- 68% now identified for early reading intervention.
- Sinclair Elementary School increased 32 points over 2019
- 56% now identified for early reading intervention.
Bucking the trend was Minnieville Elementary School in Dale City, which saw a six-point drop in the number of students who need reading intervention. Tyler Elementary School in Haymarket also scored better, dropping eight points from last year.
The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screenings are given to students twice a year in spring and fall.
Normally, children take the first test six weeks after the start of school. This year, however, the school division administered the tests sooner in “an effort to gather current data on students’ literacy skills so that teachers could plan targeted instruction and intervention as soon as possible,” said Prince William County Schools spokeswoman Diana Gulotta.
The tests will be given again in May to measure growth in students’ reading abilities. Meanwhile, failing schools will receive additional funding from an Early Intervention Reading Initiative grant to implement solutions. They could include small group tutoring by a reading teacher or paraprofessional, or a computer-based reading program that adapts to the student’s skill level and growth added Gulotta.
Here’s the full report that lists each county elementary school.
The school division began classes completely online at the start of the school year on August 10. It wasn’t until December 2 that Prince William County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts allowed kindergarten and first-grade students to return to in-person learning at 50% capacity. Now half of the students sit with a teacher inside a classroom while the other half use a laptop to attend class from home, Tuesday through Friday.
Second and third-grade students aren’t due to return to a school building until January 12, 2021. Middle and high school students won’t be able to walk through a school building door until February 2.
Sources tell PLN the testing data was made available to elected members of the County School Board before its most recent joint meeting with the Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday, December 8. Those testing scores were not discussed publically during the rare joint meeting.
Instead, Woodbridge District School Board representative Loree Williams asked a school division’s professional training office to provide a lecture to elected officials on implicit bias, a section of a larger training on Critical Race Theory. Specifically, Williams ordered the training on implicit bias, something a school division trainer described as unconscious, negative thoughts people have toward others.
The 40-minute training, administered “through a lens of love and accountability,” as the school division trainer described it, addressed racism and stereotyping. It identified bias in people who tend to be conservative when making decisions, those who feel positive about the choices they make even when “the choice has greater flaws,” those who make decisions based on knowledge and experience of past events, and those who harbor overall negative thoughts.
President Donald Trump ordered an end to Critical Race Theory training within federal workplaces in September. Three Republicans on the Board of County Supervisors walked out of the training before it began.
“This is all about Critical Race Theory. It’s anti-Americanism,” said Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.
“If this is being taught to our children, we need to know about it,” added Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland.
School officials assured the elected leaders that the training is given only to school employees. “The specific training you see here is for professional educators in the school system,” replied Rita Everett Goss, Associate Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability. “It’s a chance to foster inclusivity and equity.”
Those leaders who remained in the room defended their decisions. “I see this training all the time in the military,” said Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry, who served as Command Sergeant Major of the Army National Guard. “This isn’t just about us… this helps us in our districts and our community.
“My bias was with the gay community,” said Lillie Jessie, the Occoquan District School Board representative. “I grew up in the south, and we laughed at people who didn’t act like us.”
Jessie credited her children with changing her mind and convincing her to accept homosexuals.
Before walking out, the Repubclains said they did not receive the training materials before the meeting began and weren’t aware of the subject matter that would be covered.
“We should be sensitive to the complaints made earlier,” said Gainesville District School Board representative Jennifer Wall. “It is a mistake not to be transparent beforehand to what’s coming up in the meeting…vagueness leads to bias, which is what happened here tonight.”
Uriah Kiser is the founder and publisher of Potomac Local News.