Equitable Access to Literacy Plan
The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Equitable Access to Literacy (EAL) Plan outlines the division’s continuous improvement efforts to align practices with science based reading research.
In FCPS, we believe it is essential to provide students with explicit and systematic evidence-based literacy instruction. This conclusive research provides us with a foundational understanding of how students learn to read, what sequential skills are involved, and what professional learning is necessary to ensure access to evidence-based literacy instruction in each FCPS classroom. A strong foundation of these skills will ensure high levels of reading and writing across a variety of genres and across a variety of disciplines. Reading and Writing are critical components of student success across all content areas. The ability to read and write is a fundamental contributor to understanding our world, creating empathy within and among communities, and engaging fully as a global citizen.
Moreover, the EAL Plan provides for a justice-centered approach to teaching and learning that will guide and serve continued literacy improvement efforts across our school division over the next five years. As a school division, we have a long standing commitment to building upon identity-affirming literacy experiences that are challenging, meaningful, and relevant to student life. It is essential to continue to engage students with a wide range of texts that provide authentic learning experiences and attend to the intersectionality of their unique identities.
Additionally, the Portrait of an FCPS graduate (POG) prioritizes the development of skills that will empower students to be productive citizens of a global community and successful in the workforce of the future. In this PreK-12 plan, students will receive explicit reading instruction and frequent opportunities to engage with a variety of texts that allow students to deepen their understanding of the discipline and its specific reading and writing demands. These opportunities will support the POG attributes of Communicator, Collaborator, Ethical and Global Citizen, Creative and Critical Thinker, and Goal-Directed and Resilient Individual.
The EAL Plan will be a living document responsive to our students, staff, community, and legislation. As a collective unit, various departments, offices, and schools across our division will engage in the shared responsibility of developing strong literacy lives for students. FCPS staff will collect divisionwide data and present EAL Plan progress updates to families and school communities.
This [Literacy] is the vital equity work: students must comprehend what they’re reading, possess advanced decoding skills, have word wealth, and be able to command all of these literacy skills. Our social justice frame should prompt us to ask these questions: How are students code breakers, how are they text users, how are they text critics, and how are they meaning-makers? Our culturally responsive pedagogies arm us to build these dispositions and skills in our most vulnerable kids.
A Conversation About Instructional Equity by Zaretta Hammond (2020)
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) recognizes literacy as the foundation upon which student's success rests. Literacy is a life skill, and the ability to read, write, think, and discuss are arguably the most important competencies necessary for adult life. Substantial research points to the importance of developing strong early literacy skills because they are closely linked to deeper learning and reading achievement in the primary grades and are the basis for successful performance in school and beyond (National Early Literacy Panel, 2008; Foorman et.al., 2016; National Reading Panel, 2000).
Educational systems have strived and struggled to meet the literacy needs of all of our learners. Our limited understanding of the impact of systemic inequities has caused school systems to try to fix students instead of addressing the historically rooted causes of these inequities. In FCPS, performance gaps on the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Standards of Learning (SOL) data consistently reveal achievement gaps between Black, Hispanic, English Learners, and Students with Disabilities when compared to their White and Asian counterparts. In recognition of these predictably long-standing and persistent gaps in literacy outcome measures, FCPS has developed an Equitable Access to Literacy (EAL) plan to articulate strategic actions for continuous improvement in PreK -12 literacy. FCPS is proud of the work underway that was started in the Fall of 2021 and together with our community partners we are deeply committed to working effectively to draw upon the critical findings of the National Reading Panel, the Science Based Reading Research of literacy development, and the wealth of scholarship on Culturally Responsive Pedagogies.
FCPS is unified in our commitment to a division-wide, comprehensive, and culturally responsive PreK - 12 literacy program that uses evidence-based practices, is grounded in science-based reading research, and intentionally expands learning opportunities in accordance with students’ needs.
FCPS ensures students receive explicit instruction in reading and writing to achieve proficiency in literacy and eliminate disproportionate outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status, or languages spoken at home.
FCPS’ approach to literacy acquisition is grounded in science-based reading research, implemented through a structured literacy model, and guided by three anchors: The Simple View of Reading (Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. 1986), The Four-Part Processing Model (Seidenberg & McCLelland 1989), and The Reading Rope (Scarborough, 2001).
FCPS commitment to system-wide fidelity in:
- Using disaggregated data (qualitative and quantitative) by VDOE student groups to identify systemic barriers to student performance, interrogate current instructional practices, monitor outcome gaps, and inform changes to the system (policies, practices, resources, etc.)
- Implementation of a multi-tiered system of support to ensure evidence-based tier one instruction and early student identification and intervention in reading and writing.
- Daily, explicit, systematic, and cumulative tier 1 instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and writing to ensure all students receive a solid foundation in literacy.
- Deepening educators’ knowledge of evidence-based literacy practices grounded in science-based reading research.
- Deepening educators’ practice in culturally responsive pedagogies.
- Ongoing communication with families/caregivers and the community about student literacy outcomes.
- Deepening educators’ knowledge and understanding of the essential practices for English learners.
- Implementation of practices that explicitly address student growth in language comprehension; i.e. classroom where English learners are consistently engaged in speaking and listening with English-proficient peers and their teachers.
Alignment to Virginia Legislation
The Equitable Access to Literacy Plan provides a roadmap for Fairfax County Public Schools to align to Virginia's commitment to designing and implementing evidence-based literacy programming across the state.
In order to align policy and practice, legislation supporting Virginia's commitment to early literacy instruction aligned with science-based reading research has been enacted by the General Assembly. The Virginia Literacy Act, passed in 2022, § 22.1-253.13:6, provides governance to VA school divisions around curriculum and instruction, assessment and intervention, family and school partnerships, and professional development.
More information is available on the VDOE’s Virginia Literacy Act page and in the Virginia Literacy Act One Pager (PDF).
As a dynamic document, the EAL plan was developed through a collaborative effort between multiple stakeholder groups including FCPS staff, families/caregivers, students, and community partners. This plan provides four areas for focus, strategic actions, and success measures aimed to provide evidence-based tiered instruction to cultivate rich literary lives. In doing so, this plan will eliminate gaps in opportunity, access, and achievement for all students.
The plan includes desired outcomes and an action plan for continuous improvement of PreK-12 literacy practices toward the following practices:
- Design and implement Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment practices that are aligned to the Science of Reading
- Cultivate Equitable and Culturally Responsive Practices where every student is reached, challenged, and prepared for success
- Implement Professional Learning and coaching practices to support culturally responsive curriculum and instruction aligned to the Science of Reading
- Enhance student success through building and maintaining relationships with Families and School Communities