FCPS Implements ‘Equitable Access to Literacy’ Plan

Thomas Daniels, Editor in Chief

It is no secret that COVID-19 has derailed the past school year, especially in reading and writing. Over the ‘20-’21 school year, a University of Virginia study found that students from grades one through six are about four months behind on their reading instruction. This lost time in the early stages of the learning process can take a massive toll on younger students later in their academic careers. According to the same UVA study, 88 percent of first grade students who are struggling in reading continue to struggle in the fourth grade. Furthermore, third graders who do not meet proficiency in reading are four times more likely to walk away from high school without a diploma.  

Graph courtesy of Emily Solari of University of Virginia.

The combination of poor reading not being resolved by normal instruction, in addition to a COVID year, which saw a 10 percent decrease in reading SOL pass rates, necessitates a way to make up for the lost time. 

A new program called the Equitable Access To Literacy Plan (EAL) promises to increase students’ reading and writing skills, specifically focusing on younger minority and disabled students, who were the most affected this past year. Hispanic students from grade three through twelve saw the reading SOL pass rate drop from 60 percent to below 50 in FCPS. For economically disadvantaged students it is the same story, English learners went from 30 to 20 and students with disabilities went from just above 50 percent to 45.

FCPS is also trying to close the learning gaps in minority and disabled students. There is a 20 percent difference in reading SOL pass rates between Black and White students and a 40 percent difference between Hispanic and White students. 

To try to curb these negative trends, FCPS introduced several new changes to their literacy program, including improvements to oral language development, phonological awareness and phonics. The EAL is set to “build teacher and administrator knowledge of evidence-based literacy practices grounded in the science of reading,” according to the same UVA study. It continues saying that they will “provide rules related to identification of students in need of support” to attempt to close any gaps that were stretched during the COVID year. By committing to getting students help earlier in their learning process, FCPS hopes that it will limit the amount of time and money spent on students in secondary school.