19 April 2016
Economically disadvantaged students in Fluvanna County Public Schools are performing better on standardized testing than in the past, closing the gap in test averages with students from families with greater incomes, according to data from the SOL.
The achievement gap between races is narrowing in Fluvanna as well, with black students’ test scores coming much closer to students of other ethnicities.
Fluvanna’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction Brenda Gilliam said that those working multiple jobs, juggling work schedules, or looking for work, can be too exhausted to provide their preschool aged children with educational opportunities. “Those same families are not going to have internet resources at home, which we are finding to be a major challenge now. It is not necessarily that they could not afford internet service, but that there is no service to be had where they live,” she explained.
Gilliam thinks that the testing disparity among the races is actually caused by poverty, and that the gap is more of an economic difference. “Primarily it is an economic gap. I think I see overlap with economics for all of that,” she asserted.
Students from disadvantaged homes often begin their school career trying to catch up with their peers. “When we start kindergarten, we have students all over the place,” Gilliam said. “We literally have children who are reading, children who have started to read, and children who don’t recognize letters yet.”
“Absolutely all school systems struggle with the economic gap,” said Gilliam. “If you look at our data, around 30 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch – which is a lot but not as much as some others around us.”
“Central Elementary and West Central Primary have been trying to do a lot with preschool providers and stay-at-home families to help ensure that students are in a similar place when they enter kindergarten,” Gilliam said. “It can be difficult to catch up. “
By the time those students reached fifth grade math, the differences in the testing scores were alarming. In the 2012-2013 school year, economically disadvantaged students in Fluvanna only tested at 42 percent of the average for non-disadvantaged students. Black students tested at 40 percent compared to other ethnicities. By the 2014-2015 school year, disadvantaged students’ scores had risen to 83 percent of average, and black students’ scores were at 80 percent - an almost 100 percent increase in testing scores.