Many VA Students Struggling at School

Feb 4, 2021

The pandemic prompted Virginia public schools to call off the Standards of Learning test used to assess student achievement statewide, but other measures point to trouble at a time when many kids are expected to learn online.

In less than two months, most of Virginia’s teachers will have gotten their shots for COVID-19, and students will be back in their classrooms, but they may have some catching up to do.  Education Department spokesman Charles Pyle says a test for young children at risk for trouble reading showed an increase of about ten percent.

“We see significant increases in the percentage of students -- kindergartners or first grade -- who are at risk of failing in reading. We see even more acute increases when we look at our most vulnerable students – our economically disadvantaged students, our English language learners, black students, Hispanic students.”

Credit Virginia Department of Education

And when it comes to middle and high school, there’s also trouble according to the state’s assistant superintendent for learning and innovation.

“The vast majority of school divisions are seeing a high percentage of students who are failing two or more classes compared with last year," says Michael Bolling. 

Scores were also slipping in math, more than half of all districts reported more students missing school than last year, and many are concerned about access to high speed Internet.  More than 20% of kids lack access at home.

But Bolling said most students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades were doing well in reading  and overall things were not as bad as some had feared.  He praised teachers who had shown themselves to be fast learners when it came to online instruction. 

“The teachers are the real rock stars here. They have pivoted and learn so much so quickly, because  many of these individuals had never taught or had experiecne on virtual learning," he explained.

Even so, Governor Ralph Northam told the Washington Post he will ask schools to stay open this summer to help students catch up. He’s expected to provide details Friday at 11 a.m.