Loudoun Schools Test Data Show Literacy Declines Over Past Decade

Tonight the School Board will review an audit of literacy in the district, which, data show has been decreasing slowly since 2011, and that nearly a third of first and second graders failed a state-wide reading proficiency test last Spring.

School Board member Denise Corbo (At-Large), a former teacher, was joined by John Beatty (Catoctin) and then-Leesburg District representative Beth Barts in requesting a comprehensive audit of the school division’s shortcomings. Although various test scores dipped across the state during the pandemic, Corbo said the division needed to address literacy as it analyzed COVID-related learning loss.

“Reading sets the foundation of all learning. The pandemic may be contributing to learning gaps and behavior problems in all grades. However, a contributing factor may be compounding those issues. That a large group of students never learned to read,” Corbo said. 

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) assessments are commissioned by the Virginia Department of Education to identify students at risk of reading difficulties. The test is administered to students in grades K-8. The audit of Loudoun schools offered data on first and second grade test takers during the spring test.

Of those test takers, 27% failed the PALs Spring test in 2021. In the spring 2019 test, the failure rate was 17%. The PALs data was not collected in 2020. 

The PALs office does not recommend comparing failure rates across years because there were different testing conditions and test taker requirements from year to year. The PALs office also said that it established more challenging benchmarks in 2015.

The test takers last Spring might have experienced the most adverse learning and testing environment of all.

“The scores in 2020-2021 are not valid because there is no way to discern if a student was assessed remotely with assistance or in school from a distance with masks on to muffle production and hearing of sounds and letters,” according to the report.

While the failure rates from year to year might be incomparable, last year’s test reveals a stark contrast between literacy of white students and students of color. 

Black and white students failed the testing at a 26% clip last year— the data show that black students failure rate to typically be about 5 percentage points heigh than white students. Hispanic students, though, failed at a 52% rate—up from 33% in 2019.

The dichotomy, in part, might be attributable to the language students speak at home.  Last year, English learners failed at a 38% rate, while the failure rate for non-English learners was 22%.

Additionally, socioeconomic status appears to have a large impact on literacy. More than half of economically disadvantaged students failed literacy testing; compared to about 20% of non-economically disadvantaged students who failed last year. 

The board meets a 4 p.m. and will review the audit report as an information item.

8 thoughts on “Loudoun Schools Test Data Show Literacy Declines Over Past Decade

  • 2021-11-30 at 2:40 pm

    The School budget has grown every one of the last ten years. The superintendent and his cabal of assistants all get fat stacks of bonus money. Teachers and front line employees get ‘challenge coins’ made in China.

    The school system has one job; reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet they fail. Why do Loudoun parents tolerate persistent failure?

  • 2021-11-30 at 3:16 pm

    I hope today’s school board meeting goes well. LCSB has its hands full, trying to ensure a quality education for every student. I feel bad for the board because it’s been blasted by critics. Much of that criticism is ideologically based, in my humble opinion. If folks don’t agree with board members’ philosophies, vote them out during the next election. But please let them do their jobs in the interim. Happy Hanukkah Loudoun!

  • 2021-11-30 at 5:02 pm

    Not good. Since the loss of Dr. Hatrick the superintendents have done a horrible job.

  • 2021-11-30 at 9:03 pm

    So there’s a negative correlation between being woke and being stupid. Who would’ve guessed?

  • 2021-12-01 at 6:48 am

    The irony of a spell check failure is not lost in an article on literacy decline. Forgive me but I’ve never encountered assessmentare? Why isn’t there a PALS program for children that don’t speak English at home? They’ve already done the research to prove that children from non-English speaking households are disadvantaged when compared to English speaking households. It’s the equivalent to comparing English speaking household children to how well they read in Spanish.

  • 2021-12-01 at 1:54 pm

    C’mon all you LCPS apologists… tell us how this is somehow a good thing. Or how the blame for this lies with governor-elect Younkin.

    Reach deep into that bag of lies and tell us a whopper!

  • 2021-12-02 at 5:29 am

    Let us remember, teachers are not magicians.
    They get targeted because of lower scores.
    Studies have been done for years. Research has shown if a child’s parent does not converse with them or read to them, their literacy is always going to be lower.
    A teacher can only do so much in his or her classroom to help.
    They work long and tireless hours and are often interrupted during their teachings by behavioral students who do not get suspended for their behaviors. Students are being passed through without making the grade so little incentives to strive better. Where is the challenge, the motivation to try when they know they don’t have too?
    Teachers, we applaud your efforts during this these trying times. But let’s face it, we need school vouchers so while they continue to ignore teachers are being overwhelmed, over worked, under paid and not compensated for their time away from the classroom…. our children get what they need.
    Why put your family member in an institution for long term care if they have 1 nurse to 20 patients and 1 nurse aide for even more. Your loved one is not getting the attention you are paying for. It is the acuity levels of the students that are not being addressed. This is what is happening in the public schools. Your child is not getting the attention they deserves to strive. Teachers are the first one that will tell you to make their formative years successful. Your child should want to go to school and want to feel safe and secure. This is not a dress rehearsal where they can practice on your child. Support school vouchers and you choose where your child should learn. It is your tax dollars. Just think for a second…if a teacher has 20 students in their class and half of them have behaviors…who is truly getting the attention? It isn’t the behaved children…

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