Virginia Department of Education hosts literacy summit to tackle declining reading test scores

Virginia is continuing to see declining reading test scores and the state says enough is enough.
Updated: Feb. 24, 2020 at 4:39 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia is continuing to see declining reading test scores and the state says enough is enough.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) hosted a literacy summit in Charlottesville Monday afternoon with representatives from every school district in the state. The event featured presentations from professors at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, as well as smaller group work sessions, to get all of the state’s educators caught up on the latest trends in literacy education.

State pass rates for the reading Standards of Learning (SOL) test fell for the third straight year in 2019.

“This is something that is, if we dig in on that research we can make sure that every school division, every school, every classroom can be taught in a way that can maximize student potential," Virginia Superintendent for Public Instruction James Lane said.

Representatives from Charlottesville schools were on hand at the event. In Charlottesville City Schools, just 70% of students passes the reading SOL, 8% lower than the state average. Representatives from Charlottesville schools say the summit was an opportunity to help reverse that trend.

“All of us sort of hearing the same messages about ensuring equitable outcomes for every child, hearing the same messages around what we do know about the science of reading,” Charlottesville City Literacy Coordinator Stephanie Tatel said. "How our implementation school seems to match up with us, and then also being on the same page about the importance of high-quality instructional materials and professional learning for teachers.”

The summit placed an emphasis on best practices for teaching literacy, including the latest research and data on early indicators that students might be struggling. One attendee compared the approach to rocket science. That description isn’t something VDOE is shying away from.

“There is a science base, there is a knowledge base in reading," Lane said. "It’s imperative upon us as educators to make sure we’re doing what science has clearly told us is best for teaching students how to read.”

One focus of the summit was addressing racial disparities in passing rates. Just 48% of black students in Charlottesville passed the reading SOL in 2019.

“Part of that is ensuring that we have really high-quality materials, ensuring that we have a plan to implement those materials," Tatel said. "Ensuring foundational skills, pre-K through two, so that we disrupt that predictability of failure for certain kids.”

The Department of Education says it hopes to hold large summits like Monday’s event in the future. It is also holding regional and online workshops for continued support.

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