School Board Learns Reading Scores Dropping

Heather Michon


Reading scores for students in elementary and middle school have dropped all across Virginia in the last two years. Fluvanna County schools are no exception.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler shared the results of several different student-achievement assessments to the Fluvanna County School Board at their annual fall seminar on Thursday (Oct 21), showing that, overall, students within the Fluvanna County school system are doing well in most academic areas and standardized tests.

But the noticeable drop in literacy and language arts scores, particularly in the early grades, has the attention of the administration.

They are focusing on ways of increasing the amount of “time in text,” and “trying to make sure kids are actively reading and not just talking about reading,” said Executive Director Brenda Gilliam.

Winkler said they were assessing programs and training to make sure teachers have the tools and knowledge they need to assist their students. “We have not gone so far as to hand out scripted programs. And I am extremely reluctant to do so, because I think we have a wealth of knowledge in our classrooms across the K through 12 spectrum.”


Chronic absenteeism and graduation rates


Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent of days in a school year, was another topic of discussion.

Currently, the chronic absenteeism rate is 14-18 percent at the elementary level, 16 percent at the middle school, and 22 percent at Fluvanna High School.

The rate varies widely by category. At West Central, for example, the overall chronic absentee rate is 14 percent. But while about 9 percent of white students are chronically absent, the number goes up to 14 percent for African American students, and 36 percent of Hispanic students.

Nationwide, an estimated 16 percent of K-12 students are chronically absent.

Winkler said his staff continues to work on identifying barriers that keep kids from coming to school, even working with the courts or “going to pick them up in our own cars” to get students back in the classroom.

Graduation rates remain strong, with 93.43 percent of students graduating on time. The class of 2019 had 258 graduates, with 48 percent receiving advanced-studies diplomas and 48 percent awarded standard diplomas.

Leftover funds

The school budget for fiscal year 2019 ended up with $932,000 in unused funds. Winkler asked board members for some direction on what to do with the funds as he begins budget discussions with the county over the coming weeks.

Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) felt that these were leftover funds and should be returned to the county “because we have accomplished our budget.” Andrew Pullen (Columbia) also believed it should go back to the county. By comparison, Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) and Brenda Pace (Palmyra) felt the funds could be directed to some critical items for the schools, with Pace pointing out the continual need to replace the aging fleet of school busses.

The issue may end up on the agenda for the board’s November meeting.

Many issues

The seminar, which lasted for about five hours, touched on numerous topics, including health care costs, teacher pay scales, athletic program revenues, the critical need for substitute teachers, and test scores. With talks for FY21 on the horizon, Winker and Gilliam also laid out some issues and priorities the board will need to assess before they present their proposed budget to the county early next year.

The next regular meeting for the School Board will be held on Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm.


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