What’s “Traditional” about Arlington Traditional School (ATS)?

“Teaching methods change. New Principals come along. We do not swing with that pendulum. We stay right here…” focused on basic education built on a student-teacher-parent partnership. —Holly Hawthorne, ATS Principal since 1992

ATS is a nationally-recognized countywide elementary school celebrating student diversity from all Arlington neighborhoods representing over 25 countries. Established in 1978 as “Page Traditional School” (but renamed in 1995), ATS began as a “back-to-basics,” structured alternative to the mid-1970s’ fad of open-space, multi-grade level classrooms.  Over forty years later, as the pendulum has swung away from open-space classrooms to other experiments in pedagogy, ATS continues its tradition of excellence with a simple formula for success: Academics, Behavior, Character, i.e., the ABC’s.

At ATS, students learn these ABC’s by design – not by chance – with a traditional approach to education characterized by the following:

  • Emphasis on reading, writing, and arithmetic, with an annual celebration of Reading Carnival Day and Summer Reading Challenge;
  • One classroom teacher for all core subjects in self-contained classrooms, allowing a teacher to adjust to each child’s interests and abilities across subject matters;
  • Regular, meaningful homework and weekly progress reports sent home at all grade levels, building a student-teacher-parent partnership to promote grade level mastery;
  • High standards for adherence to behavior and dress codes, teaching personal responsibility and creating an orderly, quiet learning environment for all;
  • Weekly school-wide assemblies where all students participate in choreographed theatrical productions, building school spirit in the ATS community;
  • All students begin learning musical instruments in 4th grade (choral, band, orchestra);
  • All 5th graders serve as Safety Patrols in service to their ATS school community; and
  • The school colors, blue and gold, signify the importance of individual achievement and the Golden Rule.

With this focus on teaching the ABC’s, ATS has demonstrated consistent excellence in closing gaps in student achievement so that all students are engaged, educated, and empowered to succeed. As a result, ATS has repeatedly received state and national recognition, including being named a Blue Ribbon School (twice!), and held up as a model for other public schools in newspaper articles and books (see below).

ATS History video (YouTube)


National Blue Ribbon School, 2004, 2012 *Nominated in 2019*

#1 Public Elementary School in VA and DC Metropolitan Area (niche.com), 2016-17

Governors Award for Educational Excellence, 2008-12, 2017-18

Virginia Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Award, 2016

Virginia Board of Education Excellence Award, 2013-2015

National Schools of Character (finalist), 2007, 2008

Parent Involvement School of Excellence, 2006

Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award and APS Principal of the Year, 2005-2006

News Articles/Books: 

“Hope Spreads Through Education,” The Arlington Connection front page (2015)

Old School,” Arlington Magazine premier edition feature article (2011)

On Purpose: How Great School Cultures Form Strong Character, by Samuel Casey Carter (Ch. 8 “Arlington Traditional School: Arlington, Virginia”) (2011)

“Learning Experience,” Washington Post Magazine, feature article (2006)

“Why Don’t Public Schools Give Parents What They Want?” Cato Institute (2014)

“‘Traditional’ Va. schools find themselves in high demand as they eschew experimentation,” Washington Post (2014)

Latest News at ATS

1 year ago

Save the date for an ATS Open House on Thursday, August 30.

Letters will be mailed home soon with your student's teacher and let you know which 45-minute session your student will be able to attend.

1 year ago
Summer Reviews - Arlington Public Schools

How's that summer math packet going?

Did your dog turn it into confetti? Did grandma recycle it along with last school year's art projects? Did your child bury it somewhere and it just can't be found?

Don't worry. You can always print a new one. https://www.apsva.us/mathematics/summer-reviews/

Click the name of the grade or course that the student COMPLETED in 2017-2018. Elementary Kindergarten Summer Mathematics Review 2018 1st Grade Summer Mathematics Review 2018 2nd Grade Summer Mathematics Review 2018 3rd Grade Summer Mathematics Review 2018 4th Grade Summer Mathematics Review 2018 5t...

1 year ago

Looking for something to do to get through all the rainy days? ⛈️?️☔

Get a jump start on those reflections projects! The theme for this school year is Heroes Around Me. Entries will be due in October.

1 year ago
Virginia Recognizes 14 Arlington Schools for Excellence in Education - Arlington Public Schools

Congratulations to ATS for being recognized with a Governor's Award for Educational Excellence!


Governor Ralph Northam and the State Board of Education announced that 14 Arlington schools have earned 2018 Virginia Index of Performance (VIP) awards based upon student achievement and other performance indicators during the 2016-17 school year.

1 year ago

Today is the last day of the school year. We made it. Early release at 12:51 PM.

Congratulations to our rising Middle Schoolers!

See the rest of you in September!

1 year ago

PTA Update - June 19, 2018

1 year ago

· Avoid the Crowds
· Fill Up the Backpack without Fighting the Shopping Crowds
· Deadline Coming Soon
· You Vacation. We’ll Shop
· Spend Time with Your Kids, Not with the Crowds!
· Hello Summer! goodbye school supply shopping the old way

To order: https://www.educationalproducts.com/ShopPacks/
Enter ATS School Account Number: ATS001

1 year ago

PTA Update for June 5, 2018

1 year ago

The PTA will host its last meeting of the school year tonight in the ATS library from 6:30-8 PM. All parents are welcome. We will live stream the meeting, but we will not respond to comments during the meeting. We strongly encourage those who want to engage to attend. As a reminder, babysitting is not available for tonight's meeting.

1 year ago

Used book sale to benefit AAH starts tomorrow and runs through Thursday. Send your child with a few dollars to spend on books for the Summer Reading Challenge. Every single book is $1.

Thank you to everyone for the hundreds of donations received.

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