New Bad SOL Data Bring A New Youngkin Administration Plan for Mitigating Learning Losses in Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The Governor announced today that he and the General Assembly came together on a bipartisan basis to invest $418 million to tackle student learning loss.

The Virginia Department of Education recommends school divisions allocate the $418 million “to proven programs that will achieve the greatest student impact—approximately 70% for high-dose tutoring, 20% for Virginia Literacy Act acceleration, and 10% for chronic absenteeism response.”

Press releases today from both from the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Department of Education provide both a lot of data and a plan to assess.

From VDOE’s2022-2023 Test Results Show Virginia Students Continue to Struggle with COVID-Related Learning Loss in Reading and Math”

Today the Virginia Department of Education released the 2022-23 Virginia Assessment Results, demonstrating significant and persistent learning loss in reading and math for Virginia students in grades 3-8. More than half of 3rd-8th graders either failed or are at risk of failing their reading SOL exam, and nearly two-thirds of 3rd-8th graders either failed, or are at risk of failing, their math SOL exam….

In 2022-2023, the number of chronically absent students doubled from 2018-2019.

VDOE has also posted the school quality profiles to present the 2022-23 data.  So you can look at your local school division or school.

From the Governor’s Office comes “Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces ALL IN VA Plan to Address COVID-19 Era Learning Loss and Absenteeism in Schools.” For the details, go here.

Attendance. There is to be a task force and at some point a playbook.

While there is lots of advice available, and it seems like good advice, the literature and studies on how to increase attendance have never been able to pin down with good science what works in either elementary or middle schools.

With this kind of pressure on attendance, human nature would suggest that the state and the divisions will need to address a way to validate the reporting of those figures.

The $41 million of new state money earmarked for attendance seems to indicate the hiring of truancy officers with the policies to back them up. Both are needed.

Literacy. The plan wants the money in part to fund the hiring and training of grade 4-8 reading specialists. Sounds exactly right.

After that the literacy portions of the plan await detail. That is understandable at this stage.

Learning. The learning plan components.

Invest in an intensive statewide tutoring initiative.

Students will receive 3 to 5 hours of tutoring per week. Students who are at risk (received a score of low proficient on their 2023 SOL) receive tutoring for 18 weeks, while students who are not proficient receive tutoring for up to 36 weeks.

Students will be tutored in groups with a 1:10 ratio led by current teachers, retired or part-time teachers, and/or trained tutors.

Tutoring can occur before or after school, during the school day, or during school breaks including summer depending on the needs in the school and the community.

Tutoring will entail personalized sessions that will be guided by digital tools used across all participating school divisions.

Digital content, tutor resources, and progress monitoring tools will be provided to local school divisions in both math and literacy.

That is a very aggressive plan. It is natural to wonder at this point where that many tutors will be found.  

Perhaps one approach to fill some of the need is for the school divisions to hire the Multidivision Online Provider Program (MOP) companies. All of them are already approved to provide K-12 education in Virginia. All of their teachers are certified in Virginia.

Reston-based Stride Inc’s Virtual Virginia Academy is by far the largest provider nationally and in Virginia. The training is already personalized. Its Stride Skills Arcade seems already tailored to address Virginia’s needs and is very highly regarded.

I am sure Stride’s competitors in the MOP have similar programs.

Bottom line. There is a plan, or rather an outline of one, and money to start to execute it.

A sincere “well-done” to both the Governor’s team and the General Assembly.

Some initial observations and recommendations to the school divisions and principals:

  • For attendance, don’t wait for a task force to re-invent the wheel. This advice seems excellent. It is also hard work. School divisions and principals can start with that.
  • For the rest of the plan, it will take a great deal of good will, skill, innovation, effort and money for the school divisions to execute the plan.
  • Use the MOPs. They will give you a head start on providing the required tutoring while you try to find enough qualified people to do it without them. I don’t think you will.
  • Use the summers. You will need the extra time.
  •  $418 million is a start with state money. Use your own to supplement it.

Now we will watch supportively for the good will, innovation, skill and effort in each division, each school, and every parent and kid to take this and make progress with it.


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29 responses to “New Bad SOL Data Bring A New Youngkin Administration Plan for Mitigating Learning Losses in Virginia Public Schools”

  1. Warmac9999 Avatar

    Let’s throw money at a cultural problem. That will do it.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I am normally very skeptical of government’s ability to solve problems but the tutoring side of this plan seems to make sense, if executed properly.

      1. Warmac9999 Avatar

        If executed properly. Now that is a bit of a stretch.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Like anything that govt or even non-govt does, execution is fundamental.

        But when you do something like this doesn’t it need metrics so you can measure to verify effectiveness and in doing that, make changes as needed to get results from the time and effort and money.

        I’ll give VDOT as an example which I realize you are not a fan of but VDOT has two databases, a 6 yr plan that lays out their work and a “dashboard” that measures on-time and on budget.

        If this is all that is planned, I have my doubts that it’s going to do much other than disappear in the rear view mirror.

        I thought when Youngkin got on the NAEP kick, he was gearing up to really deal with Virginia’s education issues. TO this point, it does not impress other than making political points about history standards and “empowering” parents.

        1. Future SOL scores are one metric by which the success/failure of this new program could be measured.

        2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Read the Virginia Constitution. The Governor has gone as far as he can.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I don’t agree at all. If he is going to make a deal about NAEP, he owes a solid plan to folks. It’s his job. He needs the GA but he can lead. If he needs Constitutional changes, he can and should make the case. He needs to lead.

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            Not that part of the Constitution. The school divisions have a lot of power in this matter.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Encouraging news. I hope the plans can budge the achievement needle. The county I live in, Fauquier, really fell apart in reading, writing, and history scores. Some nice improvements in math and science.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    I thought I had read somewhere that at least some of the tutoring was delivered “remote” and not in person.


    1. DJRippert Avatar

      That would be a shame. Attempts at remote learning were what put us in this hole.

  4. Not Today Avatar

    Glory be! Something on which I actually agree with sweater-dude!

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Sweater dude is shaping up to be the best Virginia governor of my lifetime and I was born in 1959. He still has time to go in his term but the first two years have been pretty damn good.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        what has he accomplished so far?

        Not saying he has not… but a list ?

      2. Not Today Avatar

        What has he actually done?

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Sorry to cut in on your article Captain, but this is probably something you might enjoy.

    At York River Yacht Haven… Gloucester Pt.
    “The Chesapeake Bay Buy Boats will be at the marina on Friday, September 15th, for a free tour from 10:00am – 4:00pm! Some of these vessels were built in the surrounding area in the early 1900s and will be on C-Dock for you to view.”

    There’s also a pretty good restaurant & bar there.

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    All of this sounds good. The governor and DOE should have started on this last year, rather than spending all their time on changing the history standards.

    The extra specialists should be used in the lower grades before grade 4. That is where students learn to read. Of course, the results of putting more people in those grades would not show up until the governor left office.

    There is no mention of changing the way that reading is being taught. That would be a long-term solution, too.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Basically they say “we’re gonna do this” but I’d be more impressed if they said, we’re gonna “measure” to be sure what we are doing is actually effective.

      A lot of this stuff often boils down to a claim that we’re going to teach “harder” and “better” and when the scores don’t imp;rove, another program is spun up with the came goals… “better and harder”… mo money…

      This is not a “we’re gonna fix this”… thing, this is a ” oh yeah and we’re doing this too” thing IMO of course.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        I agree. Talk is cheap, results are dear. There must be measurements. However, this may be an “easy” win since the school closures will fade into the past and I suspect many kids will naturally start to catch up with or without these actions. Whether these actions speed up the learning recovery will be very hard to measure.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          which means the stated goals are more aspirational than hard goals.

          I’m not sure the kids catch up if the ones behind don’t get more time on task.

          If a kid can’t read well by 3rd grade and nothing is done… he’s not going to be a doctor or rocket scientist or even close.

      2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        The measures are the SOLs.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      But kids in K and 1st grade never had to suffer through remote learning. So, that leave grades 2 and 3, no?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        You are right. But the proportion of students proficient in reading at the third grade level was not very good before remote learning. So, we will have to wait a couple of years to see how well those current first and second graders do on the reading tests.

    3. If the children in higher grades cannot read at grade level, they cannot succeed in any courses requiring reading. It has to be an across the board effort to get all kids up to grade level.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I totally agree. If they cannot read proficiently by 3rd or 4th grade, the rest is downhill for most kids.. and not the least of which is absenteeism and disruptive behaviors in school.

        some of the problems are parental… You can’t really help the kid if the parenting is not good.

    4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Your comments are hugely cynical, incorrect on the facts and unfair to the Governor and General Assembly, Dick.

      Reading specialists are already required in K-3 pursuant to the Virginia Literacy Act.

      And “evidence-based literacy” in that Act means phonics.

      For the K-3 Core Instructional Program Guide for 2023, see

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        It would help a great deal if the Governor and DOE would frequently use the word “phonics” in their pronouncements. The general public, including probably a lot of teachers, do not know what “evidence-based literacy” means.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Wbat would be really good would be for the Gov to say “this is what we are doing different/in addition to what we are already doing… and we’re gonna measure it…. to see how much it improves the current results.

          He’s taken his shots at the current problems… (which are real), but what he is “proposing” in not entirely clear that is not already being done… it sounds like the same as we’ve done with some “more” as opposed to any kind of really major changes or revamping….

          For phonics, my teacher friends say that phonics is already part of what is taught, it’s mixed in with other techniques which are also needed because phonics is not a silver bullet… just a one of several necessary components.

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        It would help a great deal if the Governor and DOE would frequently use the word “phonics” in their pronouncements. The general public, including probably a lot of teachers, do not know what “evidence-based literacy” means.

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