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

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1 year ago

Join the Arlington Council of PTAs, a community partner with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Wear Orange on Friday June 1 in support of National Gun Violence Awareness. There is a rally at Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd from 6:30-7:30 PM.

1 year ago

PTA Update for May 30, 2018

1 year ago

Are your book shelves overflowing with books that your children are finished reading? Do you need lots of new books for the summer reading challenge? Gather those
books this weekend that you want to send to school!

The ATS Used Book Sale is coming to support AAH. You can send books to school to the front lobby beginning, Wednesday, May 30. Then be sure to send your student to school with money to buy lots of books for the summer on June 5-7. All books will be $1.

1 year ago

Field Day is fast approaching and we are in need for parent volunteers who are interested in helping with supervising a Field Day activity station!

The big event is scheduled for Monday, June 18th rain or shine, with the activities starting promptly at 8:45am and ending around 11:15am.

We are asking for volunteers to arrive by 8:30am to allow some time for us to show and explain your Field Day station to you, before the activities start.

If you are interested in assisting with the Field Day activities, please email terry.dwyer@apsva.us.

1 year ago

This is not a drill! Here is all the info you need about ordering School Supply Kits. Orders are due JUNE 8.

Please note that this is NOT a fundraiser. It is simply a service to help parents.

1 year ago

PTA Update for May 22, 2018

1 year ago

Time to Order School Supplies for Next Year! (For rising 1st-5th graders)

You have 3 weeks to order grade-specific, ATS school supplies for the fall that are being sold through a new vendor this year, EPI. Pre-ordered kits will be placed on your child’s desk on the first day of school, but orders must be placed by Friday, June 8.

1. Go to https://www.educationalproducts.com/ShopPacks/
2. Enter the ATS school account number ATS001 in the search box.
3. Choose the appropriate grade level kit (i.e., the grade your child will be in this fall).
4. Enter your child's first and last name.
5. Add to cart, confirm your order and checkout. You do not need to sign in or create an account when checking out, you can just enter your email address only.
6. Input billing name and address information.
7. Enter secure payment information.1.
8. Complete order.

Although online ordering is strongly encouraged, we understand that some parents may prefer to pay by check. If so, please complete the order form that will be included in this week's Friday Folder and return it to “ATS PTA/School Supplies” (checks should be made payable to the “ATS PTA”) by Friday, June 8.

If you would prefer not to use the EPI program, please use the grade-specific list included on the order form as your child’s school supply list when shopping for back to school items. If you would like to assist with defraying the cost of a school supply kit for an ATS student who could not otherwise afford to purchase one, please send your contribution in a separate check made payable to the ATS PTA. Please mark “contribution” in the memo portion of your check.

This is a service from the ATS PTA, not a fundraiser, and is entirely voluntary. $5 per order has been added to cover the cost of an agenda. Please know that by buying supplies in bulk, EPI offers a discount on these supplies that, if bought separately, usually are more expensive.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Maura McKinley ... See more

1 year ago

Weekly Update for 5/15/2018

1 year ago

Would you like to sponsor Starbucks coffee for an ATS teacher or staff member? This auction reward is highly appreciated by ATS staff and teachers. We still need additional sponsors before the Starbucks delivery on Friday, May 18th.
Sign up to be a sponsor at https://www.auctria.com/ev?site=964c9caa-2bdd-4802-b9da-180c22873c60
Click on Make a Donation.
Scroll to the bottom.
Select Make a General Contribution.
Donation amount = $25
In the comments box, please enter the name of the teacher and who the drink is from.
Thank you for your donations!

1 year ago
ATS Starbucks Delivery

As part of the ATS Auction, we will be delivering Starbucks coffee drinks to all 80 ATS teachers and staff. We are looking for 8 volunteers, who will work in pairs to order, pickup, and deliver ~20 coffees. The deliveries will happen Friday, May 18th from 9-10:30am.

This is a great way to bring a smile to our amazing teachers and staff!

As part of the ATS Auction, we will be delivering Starbucks coffee drinks to all 80 ATS teachers and staff. We are looking for 8 volunteers, who will work in pairs to order, pickup, and deliver ~20 coffees. The deliveries will happen Friday, May 18th from 9-10:30am. This is a great way to bring a ....

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