NORFOLK, Va. - Virginia has the "lowest expectations" for students in the entire country, according to a new report from the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction released Thursday.
Superintendent Jilian Balow issued the report to Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera.
"Decisions made at the state level created confusion in Virginia education and downplayed troubling trends," Balow wrote.
The report says the State Board of Education changed accreditation standards in 2017 and de-emphasized proficiency standards in reading and math. In addition, in 2019 and 2020, the report says the state made it easier to pass math and reading Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.
Learning loss during the pandemic is a particular problem, the report says. In 2017, 61% of Black third graders passed their reading SOL. In 2021, that number dropped to 45%.
"If we want to be the best, we have to change those trends and take bold steps forward," Gov. Youngkin said Thursday in Richmond. "The significant lowering of expectations, the lack of transparency with data, the weak accountability for these results - that all ends today."
The report says the state will be raising expectations for students and schools by creating a bipartisan study group to make recommendations to the General Assembly. The state will also be reviewing and revising academic standards.
In response, the Virginia Education Association said the report disrespects educators, who've had a touch job during the pandemic.
"Many of them have been disrespected by this report. They were able to ensure that student learning continued," said Dr. James Fedderman, the president of VEA and a teacher on the Eastern Shore.
Others took issue with the reports assessment about expectations.
"I speak to principals all over the state and they do not have low expectations for their students nor do the teachers," said Krista Barton-Arnold, the executive director of the Virginia Association for Elementary School Principals and a former principal in Virginia Beach.
"Certainly there are some disparities that we need to work on in our student population, but if you look at the aggregate, there's no denying that we're really a top tier state for academic outcomes across the board," said Chad Stewart from VEA.
The groups said they wanted more time to review the data cited in the report.
"I would suggest that all of the data points cited in this report could be the basis for long conversations regarding nuances around the data points," said Ben Kiser, the executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.
Gov. Youngkin said the data shows there is a growing gap between national standards and Virginia's standards.
"The data is overwhelmingly clear that we are not educating Virginia's children to the standards we want."