Youngkin Announces Education Initiative to Address Learning Loss

Morgan Sweeney | September 9, 2023

(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced his ALL IN VA plan, intended to help Virginia students recover from COVID-19 learning loss and return to higher academic standards, on the heels of the announcement of the Virginia Assessment Results for the 2022-23 school year.

The plan is the latest in a long string of interventions and reforms the governor has made in education during his tenure. 

On his first day in office, he issued three executive orders on educational issues. The first budget passed under his administration included the largest education budget the state had ever seen and $100 million in funding for lab schools, something Youngkin had stressed during his campaign. 

Today, his influence is reflected in history, social studies, math, reading and literacy, as he and his administration have revised the state’s Standards of Learning for these subjects. He revised Virginia’s Model Policies – a lightning rod issue regarding gender identity in schools is a reversal of the previous administration’s – and recently, he’s been touring the commonwealth holding ‘Parents Matter’ town halls. 

“Education is the top issue for parents not only in Virginia but across America. In Virginia, we are standing up for our kids and empowering parents while liberals are staying in lockstep with union bosses. We will never forget that parents matter,” Youngkin said earlier this summer on social media.

He’s often followed announcements of statewide test scores with reminders of his administration’s commitment to improving the state’s K-12 education.

The test scores shared Thursday indicate some alarming truths about students’ progress in these post-pandemic years. 

“More than half of 3rd-8th graders either failed or are at risk of failing their reading SOL (Standards of Learning) exam, and nearly two-thirds of 3rd-8th graders either failed, or are at risk of failing, their math SOL exam,” according to a release from the Virginia Department of Education. 

Students still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels of learning, and that’s with adjusted standards for proficiency that were lowered in 2020-21.

The “comprehensive” ALL IN VA plan – as the release from the governor’s office called it – focuses on three basic issues to facilitate faster learning loss recovery: Attendance, literacy and learning. 

“From the 2018-19 school year to the 2022-23 school year, Virginia’s chronic absenteeism rate for grades 3-8 nearly doubled from 9% to 17%,” according to the plan.

As a solution, the governor has suggested that communities form student attendance task forces that can supply recommendations to their schools for reducing chronic absenteeism. He also directs VDOE to “create a resource guide to support local school divisions in increasing school attendance in addition to the resources provided through the #AttendanceMattersVA initiative.”

In addition, VDOE will establish regional networks to support schools in implementing the Virginia Literacy Act, per the plan; school divisions will hire more reading specialists for grades 4-8, as they have been provided additional funding through the most recent state budget.

For the ‘Learning’ portion, he proposes a “high dosage tutoring” plan with all at-risk and non-proficient students receiving assistance 3-5 hours per week for 18-36 weeks.