VDOE report paints bleak picture of state’s public school system

State Superintendent Jillian Balow said the decline in student performance that began before the pandemic has brightened and exacerbated over the past two years.

NORFOLK, Va. — Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration says a new report paints a grim picture of the state of education in Virginia.

Virginia has the “lowest expectations” for students nationwide, according to the Virginia Department of Education report.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow said the decline in student performance that began before the pandemic has brightened and exacerbated over the past two years. She said the data in the report should create some urgency for action.

On Thursday, Youngkin said something had to change.

“They won’t catch up without meaningful intervention. It’s just an absolutely heartbreaking fact,” the governor said.

The State Board of Education changed accreditation standards in 2017 and reduced proficiency standards in reading and math. According to the report, in 2019 and 2020, this made it easier to pass the learning standards tests.

But state Democrat Jennifer McLellan said the accreditation change wasn’t to blame, it was a lack of funding.

“The changes made by the school board were designed to ensure that we meet every student where they are,” she said.

Take a look at some of the other highlights from the report:

  • Virginia fell from third to ninth among students who earn college credit through AP exams.
  • Reading scores declined from 3rd to 8th grade from 2017 to 2019 on SOL and other state assessments.
  • 45% of all Virginia students in 2019 were not ready for college in math on the SAT.
  • In the past school year, there has been a 90% increase in the number of students moving to home schooling.
  • Nearly 6,000 enrolled in public private schools since the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Chanda Madison-Wise said she was considering making some changes for her four children in Suffolk.

“Homeschooling is definitely something I’ve considered and thought about, honestly,” she said.

Madison-Wise said her kids aren’t being pushed as hard as she’d like in the classroom.

“I don’t feel like they’re pushing our kids to their potential,” she said. “They give them so much space to be able to give up.”

Some state Democrats said the report was not entirely accurate.

“To accuse Virginia’s education system of failure is an outright lie, backed by hand-picked data and a distorted perspective. Commonwealth schools have been ranked fourth in the country by Forbes magazine – a barely liberal publication – and the best high school in the country according to US News & World Report is right here in Fairfax County. Governor Youngkin is unwilling or unable to acknowledge that Democratic leadership has accomplished more for Virginia schools than Republican administrations have, and Senate Democrats are pursuing that goal by offering more salaries to educators, dedicating funds to construction of schools and much more in the Senate budget proposal, “ Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said in a statement.

Going forward, the Virginia Department of Education said it will focus on high expectations, transparency, innovation, and post-secondary readiness.

The department also plans to create a bipartisan task force to make recommendations to the General Assembly. The state will also review and revise academic standards.

You can view the entire 34-page report by clicking here.

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