May 27, 2022
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The Virginia Education Summit – State Of K-12 Education In Virginia

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On May 6th and 7th, The Middle Resolution Policy Network, hosted the first state-wide Virginia Education Summit since electing a new Governor in November. The goal of our summit was to shine a bright light on the problems in Virginia’s education system and to have honest conversations about how we move forward to address the serious challenges that children and families face in the Commonwealth.

Our wide variety of distinguished speakers addressed the lack of transparency with school boards, the lowering of academic expectations, and the lack of education freedom across Virginia due to a lack of legislative action–despite being surrounded by states who allow families access to real choice.

Additionally, we discussed how teachers are restricted from using basic behavior management techniques thereby resulting in an unsafe and often violent environment for teachers and students. Imagine trying to focus on learning when fights are breaking out in the halls on a regular basis. In many schools it’s become a war zone. Add to that the fact that career educators are leaving in droves. It’s not an overstatement to say that our Governor inherited a crisis.

Our Summit’s call to action was to encourage parents and concerned citizens to join a statewide coalition to hold legislators and school boards accountable. The Virginia Education Opportunity Alliance has been formed to help parents understand the many challenges that exist within the education system and supply them with the tools to advocate for important changes such as more choices in education.

Today, Governor Youngkin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, released a report on the state of Virginia public schools. This report exposes the wide gaps between student proficiency standards on state reading and math assessments and the grade-level proficiency benchmarks on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also known as “The Nation’s Report Card”. They refer to this as the “Honesty Gap.” Some of their findings include:

  • Only 33% of Virginia 8th graders are proficient in reading on the 2019 Nation’s Report Card published by the National Association for Education Progress (NAEP).
  • Only 38% of Virginia 4th graders are proficient in reading. From 2017 to 2019, reading SOL scores declined every year.
  • 42% of Virginia second graders scored below reading benchmarks on PALS in Fall 2021.
  • Virginia has fallen from 3rd to 9th in the nation on students earning college credit on AP exams.

We are now seeing the disastrous results of policy changes over the past decade. Covid further opened the door to how parents view their children’s education setting and are now removing their children from public schools and looking for options. The number of home-schooled students has soared with a 90% increase in transfers from Virginia public schools to home-schooling from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021. And independent schools, filled to capacity, now have long wait lists.

This report, entitled, “Our Commitment to Virginians: Hight Expectations and Excellence for All Students” is an initial step in Governor Youngkin’s work to ensure high expectations and excellence for all students–efforts that must continue for years to come. In the next four years, Virginia’s Department of Education will:

  1. Establish and maintain high expectations for students, schools, and ourselves.
  2. Advance parent and teacher empowerment to best serve students in partnership.
  3. Demand zero-tolerance for discrimination in education and beyond.
  4. Foster innovation in all education environments.
  5. Provide transparency and accountability so that each child receives the educational services they need to succeed.
  6. Ensure post-secondary readiness so that all learners can succeed in life.
  7. Protect and nurture freedom of speech and inquiry to ensure every student is taught how to think, not what to think.

The Governor and his administration are on the right track. But it will take every one of us who care about our children and their futures to make these changes happen. We encourage you to get engaged in your local community by attending school board meetings, becoming an influencer in your school district and contacting your local legislators to let them know you demand better from your public schools.

We hope that you will join with us as we move the ball forward on education by joining the Virginia Education Opportunity Alliance. Collectively our voices are louder, and our influence is greater when we join together for the good of all children and their families in Virginia!