Youngkin talks about improving ‘catastrophic’ student reading and math scores in Virginia

Posted at 12:13 PM, Oct 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-24 12:37:30-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) and his administration started Monday’s press conference about the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with a grave warning following the release of those national student test scores.

“These scores should be a shocking wakeup call for every Virginian,” Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said. “Today’s data release is a clear and heart-wrenching statement that Virginia is failing our students.”

Dubbed the Nation’s report card, Virginia’s 2022 results revealed students in 4th and 8th-grade math and reading aren’t meeting expectations year after year.

“Virginians have been lulled into complacency by a numbing nature of averages that mask individual performance,” Guidera explained.

For fourth-grade math, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Virginia had the greatest score declines respectively.

Virginia lost 11 points, DC lost 12 points, and Delaware saw a 14-point decline.

Virginia saw a 10-point drop in fourth-grade reading in 2022 compared to 2019.

However, Virginia's score is about 1.5 points higher than the national average.

Among 8th grade math, the Commonwealth declined by eight points and by two points among 8th grade reading in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic scores. Although Virginia did see a drop in 8th-grade math, the state's score is about six points higher than the national average for 2022 and 2019.

For 8th-grade reading, 2022's score is nearly the same as the national average.

Gov. Youngkin said education standards in Virginia were lowered several times by previous administrations.

“The underpinnings to this catastrophic performance were decisions made long before we ever heard of COVID-19,” Youngkin stated.

Laura Goren serves as director of research and education policy for The Commonwealth Institute. The pandemic exacerbated learning loss and virtual learning greatly impacted students’ ability to learn, they said.

“Virginia has not been fully funding its schools for many years and that impacts the ability for schools to make sure every student can thrive,” Goren explained.

They argued that Virginia has one of the top 10 highest-income states in the country, yet the Commonwealth is one of the 10 lowest states for public investment in schools.

“Virginia’s teachers have been working pretty hard despite being pretty underpaid and unfortunately we’ve seen an increase in resignation and problems recruiting teachers,” Goren stated.

Gov. Youngkin presented a seven-point plan to address learning loss and reverse the declining test results.

  1. Raise expectations and reverse "failed" policies
  2. Empower parents with financial emergency support 
  3. A national partnership with Khan Academy
  4. Overhaul "broken" school accreditation system
  5. Strengthen teacher to classroom pipeline
  6. Provide families with comprehensive student reports
  7. Challenge districts to spend remaining federal funds

Youngkin also called on school districts to spend their remaining federal dollars to help account for learning loss.

He highlighted the City of Richmond with $106 million of remaining federal funds and Henrico County with $113 million in the coffers.

"Henrico County Public Schools continues to strategically use pandemic relief funds - as they are intended - to support division initiatives and practices to address student learning needs and gaps exacerbated by the pandemic," Henrico Schools spokesperson Eileen Cox wrote in an email responding to questions about Henrico's funds. "Together, teachers, administrators, and families across Henrico County are working together to leverage these resources to meet the unique needs of individual students. HCPS is grateful for this federal funding that reflects the size and risk factors in our local community, and continues to steward our resources, in accordance with the law, to meet the needs of students."

Cox also addressed the NAEP scores.

"[They are] just one standardized assessment that provides some light on how students are achieving at the end of the year," she wrote. "However, given that it is administered to a representative sample of students across the nation and not all students or schools participate, it provides a generalized snapshot of learning. Teachers and administrators across Henrico are using other state and local assessments throughout the year to identify individualized needs of students and work with parents to tailor timely instruction, remediation and supports specific to the student and their learning."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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