His thoughts — Virginia report card not up to state standards

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, November 3, 2022

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2022 is in, and for the Commonwealth, it is an unmitigated disaster. Also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” the tests are a common, objective measure of student achievement nationwide.

This year’s results are awful, representing a loss of more than 20 years of progress in Virginia. The NAEP scores are abysmal. Fourth grade reading dropped by 13 points. Fourth grade math dropped by 12 points – the largest declines in the nation.

For the first time in 40 years, Virginia 4th Grade students are now at or below the national average. Accreditation changes in 2017 gave schools credit not only for the proficiency of students, but also for the ‘growth’ exhibited by students.

In other words, a school could still have a significant number of students perform at a level below proficiency, but still be accredited if those students showed significant movement in the right direction.

Parents are angry, and rightly so. The previous two administrations lowered standards to hide the failure they created in our education system.

COVID closures made the problem worse. But the declines began before schools were shut down.

The governor’s plan to fix this disaster calls to not only raise the ceiling on our expectations, but to also raise the floor. Schools that expect more from students produce better results.

What’s worse, not only was this predictable, but also happened despite Republicans sounding the alarm in 2020-21.

We pushed to open schools as early as possible, only to be stymied by Democrats.

We tried mightily to get $100 million set aside to help parents pay for tutoring, pandemic pods, curricula, technology and other needs to keep students learning. Democrats blocked it.

Now that the damage is done, fixing it won’t be easy. But it is possible. Governor Youngkin laid out his plan to do just that, including the following actions:

• Direct the Board of Education to raise Virginia’s expectations for students from the lowest in the nation.

• Invest $30 million in K-12 learning recovery grants to empower parents to get their children back on track.

• Establish a new partnership with the non-profits Khan Academy and Schoolhouse World, both schools started by Sal Kahn, to provide every high school student in the Commonwealth free, small-group math tutoring and homework support. Our partnership will expand as we add middle school students soon.

• Direct the Board of Education to overhaul our broken school accreditation system, which currently masks the fact that too many students are being failed across the Commonwealth.

• Invest over $70 million in the bipartisan Virginia Literacy Act to leverage the Science of Reading to transform reading instruction so that every child can read on grade level.

• Provide every grade 4-12 teacher and family direct access to individualized, comprehensive student success reports beginning in February 2023.

Republicans held the House for 20 years, and during that time we put an emphasis on improving resources and improving accountability.

We streamlined and strengthened the Standards of Learning. It took just 8 years of Democrat control of the executive branch and 2 years in control of the General Assembly to wipe out decades of progress.

Democrats have failed our students. Now Republicans will fix our failing school system. I’m ready to continue our fight for Virginia students. Virginia students should be first across the country in every subject and leading the way on excellent education.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.