Prince William County school bus generic

Reading assessments for Prince William County’s youngest students show a dramatic increase in the number of students struggling to read at grade level from last year.

According to the state’s Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), the number of Prince William elementary students not meeting the reading benchmark has risen by over 16% from last fall. In all but three of the 59 county elementary schools for which data was available, the percentage of students identified for PALS intervention is up from last year.

Part of the state’s Early Intervention Reading Initiative (EIRI), the screening is provided to school districts at no charge through a contract with the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education Development. The biannual screening is designed to identify K-3 students in need of reading intervention services before grade promotion and will be given again during the spring semester.

Kindergarteners returned to in-person learning Nov. 10 and first graders returned at the start of December. The division is so far sticking with its phased return of older students in the new year.

Division staff declined to make anyone available for interview or answer questions about the results, citing the holiday week, and the three associate superintendents for the county's elementary schools did not respond to requests for comment.

Diana Gulotta, the school division's director of communications services, said schools will create a plan of interventions for students who don’t meet the benchmark.

“Schools receive additional funding from the EIRI grant to implement interventions which could include small group tutoring by a reading teacher or paraprofessional under the supervision of a reading teacher,” she said in an email. “It may also include using a computer-based reading program that adapts to the student’s skill level and growth pattern.”

The data was made available to school board members in advance of their joint meeting with the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Dec. 8, but the results were not discussed during the meeting. At that joint meeting, three Republican Board of County Supervisors members walked out in protest over implicit bias training presented by division staff at the request of Woodbridge School Board Member Loree Williams.

School Board Chair Babur Lateef, who has long pushed for a faster return to in-person learning despite rising cases of COVID-19, called the results “extremely concerning.” Other school board members either couldn’t be reached for comment or said they hadn’t been able to fully review the data yet.

“There is no doubt that remote learning is not adequate to teach reading to the students. These results validate what the experts have always believed and that is pre-K through 3 will not do well with remote learning,” Lateef said. “Frankly, we should've had pre-k through 3 in much sooner. The data in the PALS testing is crystal clear. Remote learning is not working for our students well enough.”

There were three elementary schools in the report for which full data was not available, but West Gate Elementary School outside Manassas showed a 53.3% increase in the number of students identified for intervention, the largest in the county. Eight others showed increases of more than 30%: Marumsco Hills, Featherstone, Vaughan, Kilby, Victory, Sinclair, Enterprise and Belmont. Tyler Elementary School in Gainesville posted the biggest decline in struggling students, with 7.7% fewer students being identified for intervention. Minnieville and Marshall Elementary Schools also had declines.

In 15 elementary schools, half or more of the students were identified for intervention.

Academic indicators from other Northern Virginia school districts have shown significant struggles during largely remote learning this fall as well. A report from Fairfax County Public Schools at the end of November showed a significant drop in grades this year. Meanwhile, PALS data for Arlington County Public Schools showed drops in reading proficiency for every elementary school grade, and particularly among Black and Hispanic students as well as English-language learners. Full data by race and ethnicity is not yet available for Prince William schools, the second-largest school district in the commonwealth and 35th largest in the country.

Based on the Centers for Disease Control’s school reopening dashboard, which largely relies on COVID case incidence over the last 14 days, Prince William County remains in the highest-risk category.

Gov. Ralph Northam has imposed some new restrictions during the winter surge in cases, but many activities like indoor dining are still allowed, just at slightly diminished capacity.

As of Wednesday, the county’s seven-day test positivity rate was 16.4%, well above the target numbers set out by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health. According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, a record 2,586 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in hospitals across the state.

Lateef said that schools haven’t been a source of spread for COVID.

“[The schools] aren’t really the problem, it’s the bars and restaurants that are the problem,” he said.

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at


Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at

(22) comments


"Reading assessments for Prince William County’s youngest students show a dramatic increase in the number of students struggling to read at grade level from last year."

I read the article. The schools listed in the article are in areas of Prince William County where most of the residents are not from this country. The parents do not speak or read English well enough to give their kids support. Therefore they cannot help their kids read books. When my kids went to Potomac View and Belmont, when teachers assigned homework, only about 20% of the kids turned their homerk in. The others didn't do theirs, because they didn't have the support at home. When kids needed help, that's is where parents should help them. With the kids at home and not at school, the teachers cannot give them the extra support, so they need that extra support from parents.

John Dutko

Yet you feel compelled to inject some kind of specter of English as a second language into your argument, when the article is talking about Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.

Here is the Virginia Standard of Learning Curriculum Framework:

You present two arguments now: ESL parents inability to help their children because they can't read AND parents who do not help their children with their studies.

Your logic does not make sense.

Innocent Bystander

How do we know if schools haven't been a source of spread? Science would likely, given the rate of community spread, suggest otherwise. Are students and teachers working inside schools tested for the virus? If not, then there's no reliable science, only a proposition or untested hypothesis.


Parents. If the parents could read English, they could read with their child. In grade school, I struggled with reading. My parents worked with me for the extra support. And this was back in the 60's. Unfortunately parents don't want to learn the language of this country, therefore their kids are not learning.

John Dutko

PJC. If PJC could read English, they could read the article. On InsideNova, PJC struggled with reading. Commenters worked with PJC for extra support. And this was back in 2020. Unfortunately, PJC never read the article and wants to make it about English as a Second Language issue rather than the pedagogical steps that teachers have to overcome to educate students in a period of high stress.

Get a tutor.


Well the county is being overrun with Democrats so now instead of teaching our children how to master the English language they are teaching our children about White privilege and gender studies.

John Dutko

Education is not a zero-sum game. Insular people that resist expanding their worldviews will decrease their opportunities in life and be relegated to relive their "Glory Days" of high school well into their twilight years.

Happy Holidays!

Brad London

This is not surprising. People voted for democrats and this is one of the direct results. Schools get worse, crime and taxes go dramatically up. It's happening in all democrat "led" cities and counties across the country. Voting matters. Also democrats wanted to keep schools and businesses closed while clearly not following the science.

John Dutko

Least educated states in America:

1 Mississippi

2 West Virginia

3 Louisiana

4 Arkansas

5 Alabama

6 Kentucky

7 South Carolina

8 Nevada

9 New Mexico

10 Tennessee

Now class, what is the common denominator?

And what would "following the science" look like exactly? Give examples of countries that did and did not follow the science and prove your claims.

Lynne June

Newsflash: Farmers in states with an agrarian base do not need college diplomas, as a number of these states are. Everyone who has taken statistics knows that the first thing you do is cite your sources and identify the metrics used. There are multiple sources that rank states in a different order, depending on the metrics and methodology used to collect data.

John Dutko

How bout this: I do not need to cite my sources since the OP made baseless claims. How bout we all make up crap, throw a few dog whistles into the mix, and see what gets sharted out? Because that is what happens in this comments section.

Nobody gives a damn.

The deliberate misinformation and disinformation is rampant.

But that is fine. Fight fire with fire.

Let's get strange.


Exactly! All red states....with the exception of Nevada and New Mexico.

Lynne June

When you’ve lost the argument, get mad. Children all.

Lynne June

Check out the governorships and majorities in their state legislatures before posting such nonsense.

Robert Segall

Democrat led cities are some of the best cities in the country, I'm sure you didn't know that based on your rant. Do some research before posting.

Lynne June

Do you mean Chicago, Seattle, Detroit, etc. Youngsters get triggered when their beliefs are challenged.

Henry Howell

We should've never closed Elementary Schools, thankfully they've now reopened, we should've used masking and social distancing from the get go to ensure the young children of our community are learning.

John Dutko

There are a lot of shouldv'es, but hindsight is 2020 (see what I did there).

Even if you kept the school open, what about the teachers? They would most likely still get sick (because adults have a misguided sense of what freedom is) and infect the children, who then become vectors and spread to it to their parents, and so on and so on.

By not leading by example and quashing the stupid mask debate, Trump poisoned our ability to care for each other. And it coulda been the easiest slam-dunks in political history. He could have sold so many masks that were his brand, even endorsed by the CDC, to promote the health and welfare of everyone. He could have stepped aside and let the professionals who have dedicated their lives for this moment, instead of lying and promoting quacks like the MyPillow guy and their insane theories, giving credence to their verbal diarrhea.

It is also a damn shame that you have officials covering up for their ineptitude by trying to delete correspondence regarding the safety of the opening of schools.

Things will eventually return back to whatever "normal" was. But that won't happen without people acting appropriately and putting on a mask and staying away from each other. There are too many entitled people out there and too many ugly people that want their face to be seen.


The professionals who dedicated their lives to this like fauci and birx. Proven liars... Feds for life. Or the WHO that panders to China and hides covid cases in their ranks. If trump branded masks and promoted them as he held press conferences you would call for his impeachment. The poison started with Obama and you know it. The great community organizer was the great divider in chief assassinating Americans overseas, bombing more countries than any president since ww2 and making the f the police crowd mainstream.

Robert Segall

You are so deluded.

John Dutko

I called for his impeachment after Helsinki when he turned against the Intelligence Community in favor of Russia. And it was all caught on tape. THEN he had the audacity to say "fake news" as if we all didn't hear and see it.

I called for impeachment when he blatantly took foreign money laundered through his properties. And lying about the inauguration size, since the amount of money coming in didn't jive with the size (cant wait for that case to pop).

At the actual impeachment trial, he actively obstructed justice (which he can be tried for after his term ends) for inviting foreign intervention into the election run-up.

I wonder when he will pay back the 151 million dollars it cost for the 259 golfing trips that he has taken on taxpayers dime. And when people say "hE doNAtes HiS ShalerEy" that doesnt friggin negate it. The president makes 400k a year. He steals taxpayers money for his own enrichment. Facts.

He pardoned all of the schemers and colluders that were in cahoots with him. All of them corrupt or went to jail for corruption. And the Founding Fathers would recognize his actions were that of a tyrant. State AGs are chomping at the bit January 21st.

Lemmings like yourself will cling to a false prophet to the bitter end.

Obama's term is so passé. Now you gotta defend the actions of a man-child who is going to shut down the government on Monday.

Henry Howell

It's a shame we focused on reopening restaurants bars and nightclubs over reopening schools at the very least elementary schools where students need in person learning to truly grasp concepts.

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