On May 19, Governor Glenn Youngkin, Secretary Aimee Guidera, and Superintendent Jillian Balow held a press conference to release their report on education in Virginia. The themes in the 34 page report maintained that Virginia schools had “sporadic sharing of data, lowered expectations, and declining achievement.”
The team put forward that Virginia schools were in such “alarming” shape that a serious re-alignment and changes they are prepared to make must be implemented. It was a shocking report for a state that has consistently been ranked in the top five in the country for performance in spite of the legislature’s continued underfunding (Virginia is 41st in funding).
Unfortunately, the data used to produce the report was such a mis-matched collection of disconnected data points and inflammatory language that it is nearly impossible to connect the report to any reality about Virginia schools, students, or parents. A fact-check list of their incorrect assertions would be as long or longer than the report itself.
For instance, the report uses percentage drops in individual NAEP test results without referencing that Virginia’s scores on those tests are higher than the national average.
Much of their case uses recent Covid impacted scores that exist for all states and nations, juxtaposed with long discredited ideas about standards, testing, accountability, and rigor that have been debunked by the results of the very tests the Governor’s office seeks to use.
The NAEP test which Gov. Youngkin’s administration puts forward as the standard of data, shows that 25 or more years of push to more testing, more rigid evaluations, and more school privatization has neither closed achievement gaps nor improved performance. Simultaneously, they ignore the need to fully fund Virginia’s public schools and provide badly needed infrastructure updates to facilities.
Yet, Gov. Youngkin, Sec. Guidera, and Supt. Balow use old ideas from groups like Achieve, formed to push Common Core and more testing, as evidence that Virginia is not doing well. It is deeply disturbing that Gov. Youngkin and his team remain committed to using old failed ideas from commercially motivated sources to make their case to disrupt and dismantle one of the greatest school systems in the country.