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Virginia Department of Education releases new recommendations for academic achievement

Education leaders across Virginia were consulted in the early stages of planning, including principals, school board members and more.

NORFOLK, Va. — A new report released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) attempts to highlight and offer recommendations toward fixing school shortfalls in the Commonwealth, months after it was originally requested by state lawmakers. 

Public scrutiny over public school education reform in Virginia has been front and center in headlines for months, including conversations about the revising of Virginia's History Standards of Learning, questions about lab school funding, and more. 

Now, VDOE has just released a 76-page report, with recommendations "To Promote Excellence and Higher Student Achievement in Response to House Bill 938."

Originally commissioned by lawmakers in 2022, the report aims to analyze solutions to the following goals:

  • Promoting excellence in instruction and student achievement in mathematics; 
  • Expanding the Advanced Studies Diploma as an option for students in public high schools in the Commonwealth; 
  • Increasing the transparency of performance measures for public elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth; 
  • Ensuring that performance measures for public elementary and secondary schools prioritize the attainment of grade-level proficiency and growth during the course of a school year and from school year to school year in reading and mathematics for all students, especially in grades kindergarten through five; 
  • Ensuring that the Commonwealth’s proficiency standards on Standards of Learning assessments in reading and mathematics are maintained; and 
  • Ensuring a strong accreditation system that promotes meaningful accountability year-over-year

The original due date for the report was Nov. 30, 2022. Education officials as well as the lead sponsor of HB 938 did not respond for comment regarding the months-long delay. 

The report details recommendations for each of the charges from HB 938.

Regarding mathematics, the report contends that Virginia is experiencing a decline in student achievement based on math performances through data from the National Assessment of Education Progress. 

One of the many recommendations for this category, and one of the dozens listed across the report, asserts:

"The Board should ensure that the revised 2023 Mathematics Standards of Learning for high school level courses allow opportunities for deeper mathematical understanding. This may include reducing the breadth of standards so that teachers can engage students in more application of knowledge and skills across fewer standards."

Another recommendation, to update the state's school accreditation process, suggests: 

"Remove triennial accreditation – a revised system needs to hold every school accountable for student performance, every year."

A statement from a spokesperson from Gov. Glenn Youngkin's office reads:

"Following a review of the policies and actions by the 938 workgroup, the extensive report provides recommendations to restore excellence in education, boost student achievement and ensure our schools are serving every child."

Several education leaders declined to comment on the report until they've had more time to analyze its findings.

The state school board has its next public meeting on July 14. 

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