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School Board Matters: A Focus on Literacy by Third Grade!

School Board meetings have become ground zero for the culture wars, so 4 Public Education is introducing a new blog called “School Board Matters” for 2023-24. It will include analysis and links to video, agenda, and votes that affect you and your student(s), including links to primary source documents to support involvement in your student’s experience and education.

We hope this will provide better access to and understanding of the Fairfax County School Board, including their powers and duties, as governed by the Code of Virginia.

Although this blog will primarily focus on Fairfax County, we will share school board meeting reports from around the state, as possible.

 



Fairfax County School Board Meeting: September 28, 2023

The 9/28/23 Fairfax County School Board meeting began with two proclamations, one of which may inspire others to do good in their community:

  • National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, in honor of Meg Gallagher who experienced childhood cancer, after which she started “Meg’s Giveback” that runs twice-annual toy drives for other children fighting cancer.

  • Fort Hunt ES Baseball Diamond Naming in honor of Peter Webster, a standout player and valued teammate.

Public Input

A freshman from Falls Church High School (HS) spoke to the impact of rising temperatures and increasingly bad air quality–she asks that they continue their commitment to goals adopted from the Joint Environmental Task Force. 4 Public Education’s own Robert Rigby emphasized the need to value each and every student so that they can succeed, and reminded everyone of Banned Books Week.

Otherwise, it was a very small crowd at the meeting with far fewer speakers than normal. Normally, there are 15+ speakers/videos, but there were only 6 last Thursday. Speakers and parents spoke to:

  • A demand for SROs in all schools.

  • Need for improvement of indoor air at FCPS (two speakers).

  • Refusal to sign the SR&R over expectations of respect for transgender students,

  • Many concerns about mental health issues, gun violence, and learning the English language.

School Board Business

Literacy by grade three was front and center! Dr. Reid spoke to the need to be intentional with updates about the Strategic Plan. She proceeded to highlight the division-wide work to ensure all students are reading by the end of 3rd grade. Dr. Ricardy Anderson asked a series of critical questions about the baseline (i.e., where are we now), early literacy, and the plan going forward. This is such a critical issue that the flood gates opened with other School Board members asking how FCPS will address needs of “high mobility” schools (high student turnover, often combined with high poverty), need to keep board abreast via regular reports, efforts in struggling communities (e.g., English language learners, low income), family engagement component, and importance of Science of Reading.

During Academic Matters continues discussion of Reading by 3rd grade through FCPS’s Equitable Access to Literacy (EAL) plan. This is part of a Virginia-wide and Fairfax County effort to provide evidence-based literacy instruction. In fact, this is the result of the Fairfax County School Board’s commitment to move toward instruction aligned with the Science of Reading. (Parents of elementary-aged students should really check this out to understand how their kids are being educated in reading. See video about the Science of Reading for more information.)

Student Representative Matters: Once again Ms. Karim had a great list of updates on student concerns and student-led initiatives:

  • HS student representatives for Technology and Youth Empowerment (TYE) (501c3 started by students in the SEAL program), reach out to career specialists at your high school.

  • Renaming of W.T. Woodson High School Name change of W.T. Woodson and students have shared their support for name change inclusivity and diversity in our future. They suggested a display case honoring Carter G. Woodson, like the one at Marshal H.S.

  • Annandale grading policy that emphasizes tests so much that it has adversely affected student outcomes. Need to re-evaluate grading policy across the schools, b/c Annandale is not alone–Edison has 95% evaluative and 5% performative.

  • Woodson HS is the only HS to have a Portrait of a Graduate career day which included DOJ attorneys, FBI officials, engineers from NASA, and many more. It can enrich educational experience.

  • USDA has lowered the eligibility of Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) free lunch access for all students, which means more schools in FCPS may qualify

Superintendent Matters: Dr. Reid shares great Back To School experiences, celebrates the custodial team (Oct 2nd is National Custodian Day), and discusses the Superintendent Advisory Council meeting where students gave feedback.

Other key items discussed by the School Board from the agenda, included:

The meeting ended after about 3.5 hours of public input and discussion.



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