View this email in your browser
November 30, 2021
In This Issue:

1. Next Year's Calendar 
2. Report on Summer School
3. Happening Soon

APS: Offering the Least Amount of Instructional Time in the Region

At Thursday night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present the proposed Calendar for the 2022-2023 School Year which offers only 175 days of school for elementary (with 8 early release days), 174 days (with 5 early release days) for middle school and 175 days for high school students (with 5 early releases) – equaling six fewer days than APS students received before the pandemic and five fewer days than the 180-day standard in Virginia. The Virginia Administrative Code states that the standard school year shall be 180 instructional days or 990 instructional hours. Though the APS proposal meets the 990 hours standard (which can include recess, though not lunch), the shortened school year affords fewer days than in our neighboring jurisdictions.  

In fact, of the Northern Virginia localities, APS is open fewer days than other jurisdictions AND has more early release days.

APE requests that the School Board review and debate a calendar that offers APS students similar educational opportunities as their neighbors, as they used to receive in APS. This is especially essential after the 2020/2021 academic year of a shortened spring, delayed fall start, four-day weeks, and shortened elementary days all year long. Now is not the time to eke by with barely over the state-mandated minimum. Students also benefit from the structure the school year provides and a consistent schedule to transition back after the summer.  

We encourage readers to email the School Board and Superintendent to request a calendar option that our students deserve and need.

Staff is proposing a reduction in instructional time without Board input. What input did APS get from the calendar committee or community on reducing instructional time before proposing this reduction in instruction time? The School Board must require that staff present them with a Calendar option that includes the full 180 days of instructional time that all students grades K-12 deserve and need.  


How does APS expect to provide a rigorous education to its students, including addressing the last year and a half of pandemic education, when they are reducing the number of instructional days below National and State averages, and well below instructional days of regional powerhouse FCPS? 

Regardless of changes to school openings on specific days throughout the year or changes to the start/end dates of the year, APS should have the full 180 days of instruction. We urge APS staff to offer a calendar option with 180 days of school.

* Local jurisdictions are currently discussing calendars for 2022-2023. This chart references the proposed Options and focuses on elementary for the sake of comparison.
** FCPS has not shared draft calendars, but a review of their Calendar Development Webinar suggests they are NOT considering removing days from the total number of days. Rather, if they add additional religious holidays, FCPS will swap those days with existing holidays, or extend the School year, but not simply remove them from the students’ education. 

Sources: Arlington County Public School’s 2018-2019 CalendarArlington County Public School’s 2021-2022 CalendarArlington County Public School’s Proposed 2022-2023 Calendar,  Alexandria County Public School’s 2018-2019 Calendar, Alexandria County Public School’s 2021-2022 CalendarAlexandria County Public School’s Proposed 2022-2023 Traditional CalendarFairfax County Public School’s 2018-2019 CalendarFairfax County Public School’s 2021-2022 CalendarFalls Church City Public School’s 2021-2022 CalendarFalls Church City Public School’s Calendar Options for 2022-2023.

Tell APS how the proposed school calendar would affect your student.
Let the School Board know you want a better plan for more instructional time.
Want more contacts to reach out to? Check out our Whom to Contact list.
APS Summer School Report:
Too Few Students Provided Too Little Results at Too Great a Cost

Last summer, many APS parents were led to believe that their children would be eligible for summer instruction, including all students with IEPs and "any rising Kindergarten through 3rd graders who have not consistently attended during the 2020-21 school year or who have evidenced little to no growth", and that they would be automatically registered to attend, only to be told at the last minute that APS did not plan for sufficient staffing

Yet, in APS’ Report  provided at the November 16, 2021 Board meeting, we learned that despite having a summer school class almost half the size of prior year classes, APS managed to spend almost 25% more in exchange for only modest performance gains amongst students enrolled in the program.  This performance, met with a shrug by the School Board, raises significant questions about how APS spent all those funds, and what steps APS will take going forward to improve the effectiveness of its summer school program and to address learning losses from the past 18 months.

We are covering this now as this Thursday the School Board is considering feedback on the summer plan (in addition to voting on proposed fees).  In the words of Secretary Cardona, this is a moment to reimagine what "fun, engaging summer programming can look like, as we work together to make sure our communities recover and rebuild stronger."

As we were preparing to publish, our recently elected School Board member, Mary Kadera, posted an article making similar suggestions about ways to reimagine the summer program. We appreciate these thoughts and efforts to focus APS ahead of her being seated, and hope the Superintendent will agree and move to increase instructional time, expand participation, and improve quality.
Tell APS how summer school helps your student.
Tell the School Board you want a better plan for summer school.
Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Sign up your friends and neighbors. (Please get their OK first. They can unsubscribe at any time.)
APS Summer School Enrollment

APS 2021 summer school enrollment was the lowest enrollment of any year in the last six years.  The drop off in the number of students results largely from APS not offering enrichment instruction in 2020 and 2021.  But APS’s summer program has also seen a decline (compared to 2018 and 2019) in students receiving strengthening instruction, and in English language learners and special education students.

As Mr. Goldstein noted, this past year’s summer school program only served 100 students who were not English language learners or special education students. 

Other school districts in the area saw this past summer as an opportunity to begin to make up the learning losses suffered over the prior year, and reportedly saw some of their largest summer programs ever.  Fairfax reportedly saw double the summer school attendance from 2019, Baltimore city increased its summer program 70 percent, New York City offered summer school to all students for the first time, and both Norfolk and Virginia Beach dramatically increased their summer programs


Based on available publicly reported information, Arlington appears to have served the smallest percentage of its student population among neighboring school districts.

Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Sign up your friends and neighbors. (Please get their OK first. They can unsubscribe at any time.)
APS Summer School Spending

Although APS reported enrolling the fewest students in the past six years, APS reported that its 2021 summer school program cost approximately $5.1 million, the most in at least the last four years.  This was 2.6 times the cost of the summer program in 2020, even though APS taught fewer students in 2021 than it did in 2020; and it was 24% higher than the cost of the 2019 summer program, even though APS served almost half the number of students in 2021 compared to 2019.

As a result of spending far more to serve far fewer students, APS’ cost per student more than doubled over the average from prior years.  Some of those increased costs are attributable to the need to provide bonuses to attract a sufficient number of teachers, but that could not explain the entire difference.  APS reported in May 2021 that it had recruited 175 teachers; a $1000 bonus per teacher would only increase costs by $175,000.  Ms. Loft indicated in comments to the Board that the increase was due in part to the need for contract services staff to deliver extended school year instruction, and the need to supplement elementary students learning using a digital model.  However, according to a response to a FOIA request, APS spent only $331,597 on purchased services, with the balance being used to pay for salaries and benefits. 


Notably, the School Board did not ask any questions about those costs following APS’ presentation.  Arlington Parents for Education is seeking additional data to understand why these costs increased so dramatically in a year when fewer teachers were available and fewer students were served. 

Please donate to help fund these types of FOIA requests.
Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Sign up your friends and neighbors. (Please get their OK first. They can unsubscribe at any time.)
APS Summer School Performance

APS reported that students in this last year’s summer program saw very modest performance improvements:
  • Middle school students who started the summer program 39% behind the average of their national peers on their Reading Inventory (RI) scores improved by only 2% over the summer, starting fall still 37% behind their national peers. 
  • At the elementary school level, the gap was narrowed by only 3.3% (DIBELs scores). 
  • In math, APS students eligible for summer school closed the gap by 7.5%, starting the summer at an average of 38.5% below the national average Math Inventory (MI) score, and ending the summer 30.9% below average. 
APS also reported that based on Virginia Growth Assessments administered to students eligible for summer school, for two categories of students (those scoring low proficient and above, and those scoring at high basic) students who did not enroll in summer school outperformed those who did enroll in summer school.  Only for students who were identified as Below High Basic did summer school attendees outperform those who did not attend summer school.


APS noted that its historic summer school program has not been particularly focused, and described its summer program as being of “Low efficacy.”  APS also recognized that the current summer school program of 20-half days equates to only 10 full instructional days of school, which would not be sufficient to ensure students recover a full year of instruction.

Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Sign up your friends and neighbors. (Please get their OK first. They can unsubscribe at any time.)
Summer School and Learning Loss Recovery Going Forward

APS has in the past indicated that the summer program would be a significant means of addressing the needs of students who suffered from virtual instruction. Indeed, of the ARP funds that APS identified as dedicated to learning loss recovery, two thirds was devoted to the summer program. Yet that program served only 10% of the student population, and is described as “low efficacy” and insufficient to recover a full year’s worth of instruction. If students’ learning loss cannot be sufficiently recovered through the summer program, how does APS intend to make up the 4-6 months of instruction students are behind on average? And given its own assessment of the APS summer program, what does APS intend to do to improve that program? As Secretary Miguel Cardona has stated: “The summer learning experiences we’re talking about now really need to be better than they ever were in the past.”

Increase Instructional Time.  APS must find additional means to address the learning loss from this past year.  That might include full-day summer school classes, extending the length of the summer school program, or offering multiple sessions of summer school (as was done in Arlington Texas).  Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education Covid-19 handbook recommends that summer programs be “full-day lasting five to six weeks.”  Unfortunately, APS’ presentation to the Board proposed a summer program of the same length (four weeks at elementary, 5 weeks at secondary), and same half-day duration.  If APS does not intend to extend instructional time during the summer, it should set forth a plan to provide additional instructional time during the school year, including intensified tutoring, extended school days, extended school year, and double-dosing of certain topics.  Unfortunately, the school calendar recently proposed for next year continues with APS’ policy of offering just a few hours more than the minimum required by the State. 

Ensure Sufficient Staffing and Increase Participation. APS should find a way to increase participation among APS students in the summer program.  At a minimum, APS must not be in a position again of having to turn away students needing those services due to a lack of sufficient teachers.  To its credit, APS stated during this week’s Board presentation that it intended to be proactive in recruiting teachers, it would provide funding for incentives for teachers as it did in 2021, and it would provide a curriculum and resources (which was prepared last year) so that teachers would not have to write their own lesson plans.  Yet, except for proactive recruiting, those steps were largely undertaken this last year, producing equivocal results. At a minimum, APS should commit to having sufficient teachers lined up by March so that it can proactively expand its summer program, and can reassure parents that it will have sufficient teachers to staff the program this year.  If APS runs into challenges in staffing the program with teachers from APS and the surrounding districts, it should expand the scope of its search.

Enrichment Programs.  This next year will mark the third year that APS has not provided enrichment options for its summer students.  We don’t fault APS for prioritizing its resources this year on the critical need for recovery services.  But this should not become the new normal.  As Dr. Kanninen noted during the November 16 Board meeting, new credit opportunities for summer students can be an important means to create additional space for electives.  In the recent past (2018 and 2019), APS offered over a dozen summer school enrichment opportunities that served hundreds of students each summer, including for example Google Lit Trips, the Leadership Academy, Introduction to Algebra, Summer Literacy Academy, blended Algebra II, and many others.  Offering those enrichment courses permits a broader set of APS students to participate in summer learning opportunities, and also helps level the playing field with those who can afford private summer learning opportunities.  An additional benefit: offering an expanded set of summer instruction may help alleviate the stigma some students feel taking summer school classes.  Ms. O’Grady explained that even before the pandemic APS moved to discontinue enrichment programming due to challenges in retaining sufficient teachers.  Such excuses should not be acceptable.  APS – like any top tier school system – must find a way to overcome such challenges; not shrink from them. 

Partnering with the County or Community Organizations.  APS should also consider partnering with the County, or with community organizations to provide a hybrid instructional/recreational programming day.  For example , in New York City, the school system partnered with the Department of Youth & Community Development to offer a hybrid program, with morning academics led by schools followed by recreational activities in the afternoon.  Similarly, Miami-Dade partnered with multiple non-profits to expand educational and enrichment opportunities.  APS could partner with the County Department of Parks and Recreation to create day-long programs that would offer instruction in the morning, and recreation in the afternoon.  Such a program would both be more enticing for students, and also make it easier for working parents to enroll their students in such programs.

Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Sign up your friends and neighbors. (Please get their OK first. They can unsubscribe at any time.)
Happening Soon

November 30, 7 PM: Public Hearing: Boundary Adjustments & Immersion Feeders FY 2022-23

December 1, 7-9 PM: Arl Dems Monthly Meeting: Innovation (former Key) School; typically includes a school board or county board member update at the end of the meeting. 

December 2, 7 PM: School Board Meeting. Sign up to speak

December 6, 2021, 6:30-8:30 PM: Open Office Hours with Monique O'Grady

December 7, 2021, 6:30 PM: Work Session on Gifted Services

Forward this newsletter to a friend or neighbor. Thank you for reading!
Copyright © 2021 Arlington Parents for Education, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp