RICHMOND, Va. — The Youngkin administration has released a report painting a somber picture of the state of the commonwealth's public schools. The Virginia Department of Education said the findings show that the expectations and standards have been lowered for students and that academic performance has been on the decline.
"We must change direction," said Gov. Glenn Youngkin during the Thursday morning press conference. "We are not serving all Virginia children, and we must."
The report, titled “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students," was ordered by the governor after signing his first executive order on education just hours after taking oath.
The Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera blames previous administrations for what she says is a lack of transparency and accountability for testing results.
“State policy choices and priorities over the last decades have resulted in lower student achievement in reading and math, wider achievement gaps for our black, Hispanic, and lower income students," said Guidera.
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow added that there has been a large disparity between state and nationwide testing results. In 2019, Virginia state assessments showed that 75% of fourth graders were rated proficient or higher in reading, according to Balow, however, the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores from that same year say that only 38% demonstrated proficiency, a difference of 38 points.
“They are getting data from the past year or the last years, without the additional context of COVID and the complications it cost," says Del. Elizabeth Guzman, a member of the Education Committee.
Guzman questioned the validity of the report saying that the Youngkin administration has cherry-picked data to undermine public education.
“They did not provide any solution to what they are trying to do to address the problem," she said.
During his campaign, Youngkin called for parents’ voices to be heard when deciding their children’s curriculum and also said there would be zero tolerance for discrimination in Virginia classrooms.
Since the campaign trail, the Republican has vowed to do away with equity initiatives that he considers "divisive concepts."
“Every single student deserves an education that does not teach or practice discrimination," Youngkin said. "We shouldn’t be teaching our students to be judgmental. We need to be teaching Virginia students how to think, not what to think."
The newly released report also reveals that home-schooling in Virginia increased by 56% in 2020-2021, a trend that the commonwealth's Department of Education attributes to the lack of trust that parents have in public education, but nationwide home instruction is on the rise in part because parents simply do not trust sending their students to school in the middle of a pandemic.