The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham approach trains teachers to have students learn language by listening, speaking, reading and writing. So, for example, a dyslexic student is taught to see the letter A, say it and write it in the air at the same time.
Students are also taught to read and write various sounds in isolation before making them into words, and learn the history of the English language to understand its rules and patterns.
An APS spokesman said training is part of a concerted effort for teachers to support dyslexic students and help them get their reading and writing abilities up to a good standard.
“A few years ago, APS began training teachers to be able to support students with Dyslexia in their classroom,” the spokesman said. “The decision was based on research through the International Dyslexia Association on the best instructional practices for students with dyslexia. APS continues to have a focus on literacy for all of our students and making sure our teachers have the training, tools and resources to meet the needs of all of their learners.”
APS teachers are given awareness training on dyslexia through a 10-minute overview video, handouts with characteristics of dyslexia and training for school psychologists and special education coordinators to help them determine if a student is dyslexic and help parents understand how to help.
According to testimonies provided by IMSE, the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach is paying dividends.
“A student with an Individualized Education Program who came from kindergarten not knowing letters and letter sounds, with significant deficits in memory and attention, after a year with IMSE’s [Orton-Gillingham approach] now has consistent memory of their letter and letter sounds,” one APS first-grade teacher said in a statement. “The sentence dictation has resulted in growth of concept of word as evidenced by spelling, word space and sentence structure.”
The APS spokesman said the Orton-Gillingham approach is just one way the school system helps students with dyslexia. APS paid a discounted rate of $800 per teacher for the training.
“We have trained teachers from all of our schools in not only Orton Gillingham but other structured literacy approaches that provide systematic, explicit and multi-sensory instruction for students who have Dyslexia,” the spokesman said. “Our goal is to build capacity with all of our teachers to know about Dyslexia and then build capacity within each team to be able to offer a variety of interventions and supports for all of our students.”
The following letter was written by local resident Miranda Turner about the process of changing middle school boundaries in Arlington Public Schools.
To the Editor:
The current middle school boundary changes underway in Arlington represent a concerning turn away from demographic diversity as a consideration in boundary decisions.
During last year’s high school redistricting, Arlington Public Schools’ message was that a minor redrawing of lines wasn’t the time to address demographics, but that time was coming. Only a year later, APS seems to have thrown in the towel on the subject, in the face of “housing patterns in the county” that make it “not as easy” to address economically segregated schools (as stated by APS Staff at the October 25 meeting at Yorktown).
Each of the staff’s successive proposals has retreated from the opportunity to address concentrated low-income populations within the South Arlington middle schools. Under the current Staff recommendation, the low-income population in each South Arlington school, on average, exceeds the sum of the low-income percentages across all North Arlington schools together, and Williamsburg’s population of low-income students is 1 percent.
The staff’s explanation for its recommendation is that proximity – the option to walk up to 1.5 miles to school — is a priority for families. But only 55 percent of Arlington middle schoolers are in the walk zone, suggesting proximity is a priority for, at most, about half the county. Half the county attends South Arlington schools, yet that is apparently not enough for the staff to address the persistent economic segregation in those schools.
It is a given that each of the six APS considerations involve trade-offs. However, prioritizing proximity for the subset of families who live close to schools elevates the preferences of that small group over what is arguably best for the future of the entire school system and, in turn, the county.
Undoubtedly, the County Board has its own role to play in addressing housing patterns. This does not excuse the School Board from doing its part. Demographic diversity is not about “somebody else’s kids,” the staff’s chosen deflection at the October 25 meeting. It is about all our kids and the values our county chooses to promote.
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Voting Now Underway — Voters in Virginia have started heading to the polls to vote in a number of local and statewide races, including the competitive, nationally-significant race for governor. In Arlington, races for County Board, School Board and the House of Delegates are on the ballot. [WAMU, InsideNova]
Arlington Man Loses 45 Lbs Hiking — An Arlington accountant, 27, took 5.5 months off of work to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. He lost 45 lbs in the process and was the subject of a magazine feature. [Washingtonian, People]
APS Pumps Brakes on Focus of New High School — “Arlington school officials are slowing down the process of determining an instructional focus of the planned mini-high school adjacent to Washington-Lee High School even as they move forward with repurposing the existing Arlington Education Center building to serve a student body expected to total between 500 to 600 students.” [InsideNova]
Props for Arlington’s Pet Decision — Arlington’s recent ban on “wild and exotic pets” struck the right balance between resident safety and pet owner rights, writes an Arlington pet advocate and a longtime pet care professional. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
Making the Case for Amazon in Crystal City — Amazon’s planned second headquarters would find a good home in Crystal City, according to Washingtonian magazine writer Dan Reed. He said the combination of a major airport close by, good transit links from Metro and the fact that it remains “underutilized” after Base Realignment and Closure makes it an attractive option. Reed also suggested Poplar Point on the Anacostia waterfront in D.C. or the Discovery District in College Park, Md. as other places that fit the bill. [Washingtonian]
More Than 40 Drone Flights Detected at Fort Myer — A study to detect unmanned aircraft found that 43 drone flights were picked up over Fort Myer over a 30-day period beginning in August. It is in the middle of a no-drone zone, with flights requiring specific permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. The report suggests the flights could have been from “well-intentioned” tourists at the nearby Arlington National Cemetery and other National Parks. [WTOP]
Leaf Collection Begins Next Week — “The Arlington County government’s vacuum-leaf-collection program is slated to begin November 13 and run through December 22. Each civic-association area is slated to get two passes during the cycle, with signs posted three to seven days before each pass, government officials said. Schedules also will be posted online. Residents wishing leaves to be vacuumed away should place them at the curb by the posted date, but avoid putting them under low-hanging wires or near parked cars.” [Inside NOVA]
APS to Slow Down Planning for Instructional Focus of New High School Seats — Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington School Board agreed to slow down the process of determining an instructional focus for the 500-600 new high school seats at the Education Center until a task force looking at the school’s strategic plan has finished its work. The plan had been for Superintendent Patrick Murphy to bring initial ideas for the site to the Board in December, but staff said slowing down would allow a “big-picture view of all high-school needs in the county.” [Inside NOVA]
Virginia Man Tried to Board Plane With Loaded Gun at Reagan National Airport — A Manassas man tried to board a plane at Reagan National Airport last Thursday with a loaded gun. The Transportation Security Administration detected the 9mm semi-automatic handgun during security checks, confiscated the firearm and cited the man on a weapons charge. It was loaded with seven bullets. [WJLA, WRC]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program students were evacuated earlier today (Thursday) after a small fire in a science lab.
The Arlington County Fire Department responded to the school at 4100 Vacation Lane just after 12 p.m. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said some paper caught on fire during an experiment in the lab.
The fire was quickly put out by the teacher before firefighters arrived, with students evacuated as a precaution. A fire department spokesman said firefighters monitored the air and checked for hazards, but no issues were found. The smoke cleared naturally, the spokesman said.
There were no injuries and there was only minor damage to the equipment being used. Students returned to classes soon after.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 26, 2017
The following letter was written by Ryan Bloom, Chloe Fugle, Maria McGlone and Ethan Novak, student board members of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.
A little-noticed Arlington County government report that was issued during hurricane season should be read as a call for action on a local issue that concerns a growing number of public school students and other Arlingtonians: recycling efforts in our public schools.
The September report by the County Solid Waste Bureau (SWB) concluded that, while Arlington County as a whole has a recycling rate of 46.8 percent, the rate for Arlington Public Schools (APS) is estimated to be 15 percent. This is below the minimum recycling rate of 25 percent mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The 15 percent estimate for APS recycling is not surprising given our observations and those of the SWB in school cafeterias, hallways and classrooms. SWB reported that 70 percent of schools are not fully compliant with County recycling code; even almost two years after the code came into effect.
For example, schools’ recycling bins sometimes lack clear, explanatory signs and these bins are often not co-located with trash bins. The result is often confusion about what goes in what particular bin resulting in students and teachers tossing both recyclables and trash in the nearest container.
The SWB reports that few schools have a successful cafeteria recycling system, which is the likely result of a “… lack of clear administrative standards and policies concerning a recycling culture campus-wide.”
Our public schools should be a model for effective stewardship practices, rather than a source of embarrassment. Students develop lifelong habits based on what they see and are taught in their homes, schools and communities.
Moreover, taxpayers benefit from effective recycling practices since disposing of trash is typically more expensive than recycling. The County Board has resolved to achieve “zero waste” by 2038, which will only be achieved if our families and institutions, including APS, take action today and implement an effective recycling system fully compliant with County recycling code.
- Ryan Bloom, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Chloe Fugle, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Maria McGlone, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Ethan Novak, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Arlington Murder Suspect Arrested — Jason Allen Johnson, wanted for the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Michael Gray at an Arlington house party in February, has been arrested. Fox 5 reports that Johnson was arrested in New York on unrelated charges. [Fox 5]
County Threatens Eminent Domain for Bus Parking Lot — Arlington County is threatening to use the power of eminent domain to acquire a property it is currently leasing for bus parking along I-395 near Shirlington. The County Board last night authorized an offer to buy the property, which is assessed at $20.5 million, but also authorized use of eminent domain to acquire the property if its purchase offer is unsuccessful. [Arlington County]
Auditor Plans to Tackle School Construction Costs — “The Arlington School Board’s internal auditor plans to take a crack at a vexing question: Why does it cost so much more to build a school in Arlington than elsewhere? Or does really cost that much more, after all?” [InsideNova]
ACPD Greets All-Law Enforcement Honor Flight — Officers from the Arlington County Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies often greet honor flights arriving at Reagan National Airport. Yesterday they greeted the first-ever honor flight of veterans who all later served as law enforcement officers. [Twitter, Twitter]
Endorsements for Gutshall, McCullough — Democratic Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall has picked up the endorsement of the Sun Gazette newspaper. Independent progressive candidate Charles McCullough, meanwhile, has been endorsed by the Working Families Party. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Ameschen
Arlington Public Schools will host two community meetings this week to present proposals for changes to middle school boundaries.
Entitled, “What We Learned,” APS staff will present a second round of boundary proposals, developed after receiving community feedback on initial plans. The meetings are set for the following dates and locations:
- Wednesday, October 25, 7-9 p.m. at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd)
- Thursday October 26, 7-9 p.m. at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street)
The forums will follow up on meetings earlier this month, entitled “Getting Started,” where staff presented initial ideas to provide a “starting point” for further discussion. APS is redrawing its middle school boundaries as a sixth is set to open at the Stratford school site in 2019.
Staff wrote that this second round of proposals will “shape the Superintendent’s recommendation to the School Board that will create boundaries for the new middle school at Stratford, relieve crowding at some schools, and balance enrollment among all six middle schools.”
Superintendent Patrick Murphy will make a recommendation on the redrawn boundaries on November 14. The Arlington School Board will hold a public hearing on November 30, then vote on the plan on December 14. The new boundaries would take effect in 2019.
Belmont TV Closing — Belmont TV, located at 4723 King Street on the Arlington-Alexandria border, is planning to close its doors at the end of the month, after about 75 years in business. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Having Trouble Hiring Bus Drivers — “The strong local economy is creating some challenges for Arlington Public Schools’ efforts to fill out its bus-driver and bus-assistant ranks. There are still ‘nine routes that don’t have permanent drivers,’ said John Chadwick, the school system’s assistant superintendent for transportation, at the Oct. 19 School Board meeting.” [InsideNova]
Northam, Roem Speak at Freddie’s — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and House of Delegates candidate Danica Roem spoke last night at an LGBT-focused campaign event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Also attending the event were state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Mark Levine and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. [Washington Blade]
History of the Pentagon Cable Crossing — A cable crossing, marked with large signs along the banks of the Potomac River, dates back to the construction of the Pentagon in early 1940s. [Atlas Obscura]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
— ArlingtonVA (@ArlingtonVA) October 10, 2017
Funding for schools, Metro and public safety officials weigh heavily as Arlington County’s initial budget conversations continue.
In an infographic released yesterday (Tuesday) ahead of more public roundtables to discuss the FY 2019 budget, county staff highlighted how the county spends its money and the challenges ahead.
According to the data, the biggest expense in the county’s operating budget is Arlington Public Schools, which is allocated $490.2 million by the county, or 39 percent of its budget. Human services and public safety are second and third, around $140 million each, or 11 percent.
Among the challenges ahead, staff said APS enrollment has grown by 850 students a year for the last five years, and it takes up almost all of the $510 million raised from real estate taxes on homes, condos and apartments.
And with Metro needing more money and an office vacancy rate of 17.8 percent, which keeps commercial real estate revenue down, county leaders are expecting some tight fiscal times and hard budgetary decisions.
A number of groups will be looking to influence county leaders’ thinking during the budget discussion. Among them is IAFF Local 2800, the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association.
In a tweet Tuesday, the group said firefighters, paramedics and police officers need a market adjustment to their salaries — a pay rise to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living — to “remain competitive.” The last adjustment was in 2013.
According to figures provided to ARLnow.com by IAFF Local 2800, starting pay for county firefighters is 20 percent below the regional average and only $2 more per hour than the county’s minimum wage.
Since the last “market adjustment,” the group said, inflation in the region is up almost 5 percent, the cost of family HMO health insurance for county employees has increased over 45 percent, and the cost for HMO coverage for retirees and their spouses has increased over 55 percent.
Local 2800 added that new firefighters will earn 12 percent less per hour over a 20-year career compared to their peers in Fairfax, Prince William, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, the City of Alexandria and D.C.
“Arlington invests a tremendous amount of money in hiring, training and developing its firefighters,” said Brian Lynch, President of Local 2800. “Every time a firefighter leaves the department for another opportunity or does not complete their probationary period, we consider this a loss of an investment in human capital. If the department’s physical capital, vehicles, tools etc. were being lost the way we are losing our people, it would be considered common sense to try to stop the losses. There is not only a moral imperative to fairly compensate those who risk their lives to protect the community, there is also a fiscal imperative.”
A working group will soon begin evaluating the Arlington Career Center and planning for more high school seats there — and even looking into the possibly of a new comprehensive high school on the site.
The Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) is set for a renovation and an addition of 700-800 high school seats in time for 2022. The Arlington School Board voted in June to use it alongside the Education Center to add 1,300 high school seats, in a so-called “hybrid” option.
And according to a draft charge for the Career Center Working Group, it will assess the following as it helps prepare the site for the additional seats:
- Estimate total project cost with low, middle and high cost alternatives within the funding limits approved by the School Board
- A vision and plan for the site that could include further additions and renovations that might develop in phases into a H.S., and that includes Arlington Tech and existing programs. This will be developed through a community engagement process in concert with the County.
- Options for common spaces, including recreational and performance spaces, that might also be shared with the community Draft Charge for CCWG
- Parking requirements including structured parking
- Physical education programs and field space
- Timelines and funding requirements
- Assume current programs continue to exist; provides funds for instructional spaces
- [Patrick Henry Elementary School] must remain an elementary school for the foreseeable future
- APS’s FY2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) – provides funds for instructional spaces – does not include funds for public spaces available at other high schools
At a meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday) at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street), the county’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) and the Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs (FAC) will meet to discuss the plan for the renovated Career Center.
And at that meeting, commission members will look to identify any additional factors that must be weighed, and also ask whether the site should be considered for the proposed fourth comprehensive high school in the county.
When School Board members approved the “hybrid” option, they also directed Superintendent Patrick Murphy to explore “options describing cost, timeline, capacity, location and program for a [fourth] comprehensive high school in the FY 2019-2028 [Capital Improvement Program] process.”
Under a timeline proposed by APS staff, community engagement will begin next month and last through May, after the two commissions review the proposal. In parallel, the working group will do its work, before making a presentation to the School Board in May.
Record High Low Temperature — The area has set another record for a warm low temperature. Yesterday, the low temperature at Reagan National Airport was 74 degrees, besting the previous Oct. 9 record of 72 degrees. [Twitter]
Record APS Enrollment — Enrollment at Arlington Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year has been recorded at 26,927, surpassing the previous record set in 1963 in the midst of the Baby Boom generation. “The official count was up 789 students – 3 percent – from a year before, and has now risen 27 percent since the 2010-11 school year,” the Sun Gazette reported, though the final figure was well below the more than 27,000 projected. [InsideNova]
Record School Library Circulation — Print is apparently not dead yet, as 1.044 million books and other printed materials were checked out at Arlington Public Schools libraries last school year, a new record. It is the first time that count has exceeded 1 million. [InsideNova]
ACFD Getting New Ambulances — The Arlington County Fire Department is getting two brand-new ambulances for its fleet. [Twitter]
Courthouse Meeting Bowls in KidsPost — “Near Arlington’s courthouse, three unusual round wooden objects are attracting attention and exploration by people of all ages. Some think they look like amusement park rides. To Hadley Christiansen, 3, of Arlington, ‘they look like salad bowls.'” [Washington Post]
Meeting Set on High-Speed Rail Line — A public hearing is being held in Alexandria next Tuesday to gather public input on proposed high-speed rail service from D.C. to Richmond. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
Arlington Man Dies in Motorcycle Wreck — A 68-year-old Arlington man died last month after a motorcycle crash in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Police say Ben Walker, Jr. ran into the back of a car that had just made a U-turn on Indian Head Highway. [Patch]
Pentagon City Hotel Changes Hands — An Orlando-based real estate investment firm has acquired the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City for $105 million. Xenia Hotels & Resorts said in a press release that the 365-room hotel is “uniquely positioned” in the market given its direct connection to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [PR Newswire]
Housing Demolitions Continue — The group Preservation Arlington has released its latest tally of demolition permits, reporting that demo permits for 120 single-family homes were applied for in the first nine months of the year. “The pending loss of these homes ‘represents a loss of history, architecture, time, energy and materials,’ the preservation group said in a statement.” [InsideNova]
Virginia’s Halloween Candy of Choice — The most popular Halloween candy in Virginia, according to the website CandyStore.com, is Snickers bars. Hot Tamales and candy corn were second and third, in terms of pounds sold. [CandyStore]
Letter: Possible Names for Schools — In a letter to the editor, a local resident recommended consideration of three African-American women who played notable roles in Arlington County history as potential new names for public schools. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Car Fire on 23rd Street N. — A car was engulfed in flames on 23rd Street N. near the Overlee pool last night just before 6:30 p.m. The fire department arrived on scene and quickly extinguished the fire. [Twitter]
Local Tech Firm Benefiting from Trump — Giant Oak, a low-profile data mining firm based in Clarendon, has been awarded nearly $3 million in contracts from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Donald Trump took office. Most of the contracts are for “social media data analytics.” [Forbes]
Arlington On-Time Grad Rate Dips — “Arlington Public Schools’ on-time-graduation rate dipped slightly in 2017, remaining roughly on par with the state average, according to figures reported Sept. 27. The school system’s on-time-graduation rate of 90.8 percent was down from 91.1 percent a year before and the lowest since 2012.” [InsideNova]
No ‘Code Red’ Days This Year — Summer is over and the D.C. area got through it with no “code red” and fewer “code orange” low air quality days. “We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the region’s air quality thanks to more than a decade of action and coordination at all levels of government,” said Hans Riemer, chair of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee. [MWCOG]
Road Closures for Shirlington Oktoberfest — Campbell Avenue and part of S. Randolph Street in Shirlington will be closed most of the day Saturday for the annual Shirlington Oktoberfest, which runs from noon to 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
County Awarded for Economic Development Efforts — “Arlington Economic Development (AED) has been honored with three Excellence in Economic Development Awards by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The awards were presented at a ceremony earlier this month during the IEDC Annual Conference in Toronto.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Arlingtonians will have several opportunities to weigh in on the names of new schools and the renaming of existing ones under a plan put forward by Arlington Public Schools staff.
APS is set to undertake a four-step process to discuss its school naming policies, a conversation that will likely include discussion of the name of Washington-Lee High School.
Members of the Arlington School Board announced last month they will reconsider existing school names. That announcement came after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, and a petition for APS to change the name of Washington-Lee High School, named in part for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Board members will also be looking for names for the building on the former Wilson School site — the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program — and the new 1,000-seat middle school on Vacation Lane.
According to a draft plan discussed Thursday night by the Board, the first phase will begin with a committee made up of APS staff.
APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said that committee will include a “diverse” group of APS staff, including school administrators, central office staff and teachers as well as custodians and bus drivers.
That committee will study the origins of existing school names, put together draft criteria for APS school names and take feedback from the public, including staff, families, students, alumni and community members. Its work is scheduled to be completed “later in the school year,” according to the draft.
The current APS naming criteria offer only two pieces of guidance: (1) that schools can be named “according to geographical or historical relationships in which the site is located,” meaning schools are named for the neighborhood they are located in or the street they are on; and (2) that naming a school for an individual can only be considered after they have been dead for five years.
After that first phase, staff will present a draft recommendation to update APS’ naming criteria to the School Board. The committee will also “be prepared to identify names of APS schools, if any, that may need to be considered for renaming by their respective school communities,” reads the memo outlining the process.
The Board then will take public comment on the updated naming policy and any proposed changes to school names, adopt the policy and if necessary, direct Superintendent Patrick Murphy to begin a renaming process. Finding names for the two new schools could then begin, using the updated criteria.
Board members said the plan, set to be formally approved at a future meeting, is exactly what they were looking for.
“I like the fact that we’re taking baby steps towards this and being very, very thoughtful,” said Nancy Van Doren.
“[Staff has] laid out what we promised, which is a deliberate process,” said Board chair Barbara Kanninen.