Tag Archives: Charles Pyle

Failure Is Not an Option with Proposed SOL Revisions: Part Two

Lisa Coons

by Charles Pyle

Last month, we examined two items on the agendas for the Board of Education’s January 24-25 meetings that seemed to fly in the face of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 campaign promises to raise expectations for students and schools and increase transparency in how the commonwealth reports on the performance of both.

Under one of Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons’ proposals — which was abruptly removed from the agenda of the board’s January 25 business meeting — students would no longer fail Standards of Learning tests in reading and math. Rather, students who failed to meet the proficiency benchmarks would be reported as performing at the “basic” or “below basic” levels. 

As pointed out in last month’s article, while these descriptors mirror those on the national reading and math tests, the potential for confusion would be high given that Virginia sets the proficiency bar on its reading and math SOL tests much lower than the benchmarks students must meet on the national tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Youngkin expressed his concerns about Virginia’s low expectations on the campaign trail in 2021, and vowed in his May 2022 report “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students” to raise the commonwealth’s expectations for students to equal the rigor of the national benchmarks. The governor’s report noted that while other states raised standards during recent years, Virginia’s expectations relative to national standards had slipped to the lowest in the nation. 

But a recent but little-noticed National Center for Education Statistics study confirms that this is still the case, despite the governor’s promise to raise expectations. Continue reading

Failure is not an Option with Proposed SOL Revisions

Glenn Youngkin

by Charles Pyle

During summer and fall 2021, Glenn Youngkin tapped into rising parent frustration over prolonged school closures and a general unease about falling student achievement in Virginia’s public schools. 

Although a newcomer to state politics, Youngkin had the data and evidence to show the correlation between the lowering of expectations for students and schools under his two Democratic predecessors and declining achievement on state and national assessments. 

Youngkin seized on the performance of Virginia students on the pre-pandemic 2019 national reading and math tests to highlight the consequences — especially for minority students — of lowering standards. He correctly pointed out that Virginia’s definitions for proficiency relative to national expectations were the lowest in the nation.

The challenge Youngkin faced as he took office mirrored what confronted George Allen 28 years ago following sharp declines in student achievement on the 1994 national reading and math tests. 

Allen saw the results as a call to action. His Commission on Champion Schools laid the foundation for the Standards of Learning program, and Allen went on to become the most consequential Republican “education” governor of the 20th century. 

Allen launched the SOL reform despite Democratic majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and at times fierce opposition from the education establishment. But over time, the performance of Virginia students improved, and the “SOL wars” ended as a bipartisan consensus emerged around standards and accountability. Continue reading