(The Center Square) – After a report found a decline in mathematics and reading proficiency among Virginia fourth graders, Republicans and Democrats are sparring over the cause of the results.
Virginia’s math and reading proficiency among fourth graders is declining at a rapid rate, much faster than the national decline, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress report card. Over the past three years, the reading proficiency scores fell at three times the rate of the national average and the mathematics scores fell at twice the rate of the national average.
Prior to the last couple of years, the commonwealth’s scores had been well above the national average. Now, the reading proficiency scores have fallen to the same rate as the nation as a whole for the first time since the 1990s and mathematics scores are only three points higher than the national average, despite being 10 points higher just three years ago.
House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement that the results were disappointing but predictable.
“Failure is a choice, and past Democratic leaders chose to fail our students by prolonged school closures and lowering academic standards,” Gilbert said. “Look no further than to states that reopened schools sooner and their student achievement during the pandemic. I look forward to working with Governor Youngkin’s administration and the General Assembly to correct these failures and give our students the education they deserve.”
A timeline of events shows the reading proficiency scores started sharply declining after the Board of Education, under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, lowered its accreditation standards in 2017 and then declined even more rapidly after the board lowered its reading standards of learning cut scores in 2019. Mathematics proficiency began to rapidly decline after the board lowered its math standards of learning cut scores in 2019.
One of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s priorities, which has garnered support from GOP leadership, is increasing standards to curb the rapid decline in results.
Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of misdiagnosing the problem. Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who chairs the Senate Education and Health Committee, said lawmakers need to work on solutions, but criticized Youngkin for putting the blame on the previous Democratic administration.
“In a time where we need proper leadership from the governor, instead of taking time off the road to find solutions to learning loss problems in Virginia’s schools, he’d instead placed the blame on previous administrations,” Lucas said in a statement. “While Youngkin is trying to prove he is fit for national leadership, he isn’t dealing with the problems in his commonwealth. We have staffing shortages in schools across Virginia, students aren’t receiving the proper resources to set every child up for success, and many schools need funding for structural improvements to increase the quality of education. Now is not the time to point fingers at those who are no longer in leadership.”
Republicans have a slim majority in the House and Democrats have narrow control of the Senate.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.
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