Education Embarrassment in Virginia – WSJ

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during the press conference announcing the Department of Education’s education report Thursday, May 19.


Steve Helber/Associated Press

Incoming governor Glenn Youngkin promised to improve Virginia’s schools, and polls on leaving last November showed 53% thought it was the most important issue. A new report from the state Department of Education lays out the academic decline fueled by state policies that the governor must reverse to fulfill his education mandate.

Student performance in K-12 has declined on several metrics. From 2017 to 2019, reading literacy, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fell by five percentage points among fourth graders and four percentage points among eighth graders. From 2014 to 2021, the state fell from 3rd to 9th in the percentage of high school students who qualified for college credit with at least one Advanced Placement exam. From 2017 to 2019, reading scores on the state learning standards exam also fell.

“State leaders have lowered expectations of students and redefined success for both students and schools,” the report says, and that’s for sure. In 2017, the Virginia Board of Education reduced the importance of class-level competency in school accreditation.

The Board of Education also voted for lower competency standards in state exams. This has exacerbated Virginia’s “honesty gap,” which is the difference in student performance levels between state tests and the NAEP. While other states have closed these gaps, “Virginia is the only state that defines its fourth-grade reading test below the NAEP baseline and also sets the lowest bar standards in the nation for fourth-grade math and eighth-grade reading.” .” says the report.

Pandemic learning loss didn’t help. The report cites a study this spring by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 11 states that found Virginia had the lowest in-person tuition and largest decline in state test-pass rates in math and English for 3rd-8th graders from 2019-8. Class had 2021.

With this record, it is not surprising that more and more parents are withdrawing their children from the district schools. The proportion of homeschooled students is about 45% higher this school year than in 2019/20. In the 2020-21 school year, 3,748 students left public schools for private schools.

All of this is a great opportunity for Mr. Youngkin to reverse the trend. His government promises to raise standards of achievement, encourage more “collaboration” with parents, and promote “freedom of speech and inquiry” in classrooms. It also pledges to “support innovative education by expanding the choice of schools,” including “laboratory schools,” which are public schools run by universities. The good news is that he has the mandate to do all of this.

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