Virginia test scores: Achievement below pre-pandemic levels

August 18, 2022 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia students made one-year gains in most subjects but achievement in all areas remains below pre-pandemic levels, the Department of Education said Thursday as it released the year’s standardized test scores.

In mathematics, 66% of students across all grades passed their exams during the 2021-2022 school year, compared with 82% in the 2018-2019 school year before the pandemic, according to a department news release.

Gaps between pre-pandemic math performance and achievement in the most recent year were wider among Black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students, as well as English learners and students with disabilities, than among white and Asian students, the department said.

In reading, 73% percent of students passed the Standards of Learning and other state assessments in the most recent year, compared with 78% pre-pandemic.

Students overall made progress on this year’s tests in each subject matter area except writing, according to the news release. On writing exams, the percentage passing dipped, at 65% this year compared with 69% the year prior.

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The department also said that its own analysis of statewide data showed a strong correlation between in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year and higher achievement on this school year’s test scores.

For instance, it found that in school districts that offered nearly all in-person instruction in the 2020-2021 school year, 69% passed this year’s mathematics exams. For districts that were mostly remote, only 37% passed the same tests.

“The bottom line is that in-person instruction matters,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a statement. “When we compare the 2021-2022 data with achievement in 2020-2021 — when the majority of our students were learning remotely or on hybrid schedules — we can see the difference our teachers made once they were reunited with their students in their classrooms. I want to thank all of our teachers for everything they did last year to begin what will be a multiyear recovery effort.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned heavily on education issues and has made education reform a priority since taking office in January. He’s pushed for school innovation through the expansion of lab schools; rolled back numerous policies, memos and other resources from previous Democratic administrations related to diversity, equity and inclusion; and signed into law a bill requiring parental notification about sexually explicit content.

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His administration also released a report in May that said Virginia’s public schools had been experiencing a decline in student achievement that predated the pandemic.

Youngkin, a Republican, said in a statement Thursday that his administration was committed to closing “the achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged and younger learners that arose during school shutdowns.”

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Based on updated information from the Department of Education, this story has been updated to correct the math performance of students in districts that were mostly remote in 2020-2021.