Yesterday, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the release of $30 million and a new data platform to combat and learn more about pandemic learning loss in Virginia.
The $30 million will be given to parents in the form of K-12 Learning Recovery Grants that they can use for qualifying education services, including tutoring and summer enrichment programs. Families whose income does not exceed 300% of the Federal Poverty Level will receive $3,000 for qualifying students. For example, a family of four with an income of $90,000 or less will receive $3,000 per qualifying student (potentially up to $6,000 in total). Other qualifying students will receive $1,500.
The announcement also included a web-based tool called Virginia’s Visualization and Analytics Solution (VVAAS) that “will allow qualifying students and their parents to more quickly access the vetted and approved education services they need to address the negative effects the pandemic has had on their educational progress and well-being.” VVAAS will provide growth, diagnostic, and student projection reports for individual students. Already almost half of Virginia school divisions (school districts in Virginia are called divisions) have access to the service, and in the next two months, the rest of the divisions will.
Additionally, through a partnership with William and Mary, the 25 school districts in the “Bridging the Gap” initiative will receive more training on the program to “develop best practices and ways to effectively use this data, which will be shared with all school divisions this summer.”
The announcement came a day before Governor Youngkin will participate in a national CNN Town Hall on The War Over Education.
K-12 Learning Recovery Grants and VVASS begin to fulfill the Youngkin Administration’s promise in “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students” to “commit to placing Virginia education on a new path.”
The new initiatives are also part of Governor Youngkin’s larger educational plan, “Our Commitment to Virginia’s Children,” announced last October in response to Virginia’s “catastrophic” scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP or the Nation’s Report Card.
When the scores were released on October 24, 2022, they revealed that Virginia had the largest decline in fourth-grade reading since 2017 in the nation. Virginia tied with Maryland for the largest decline in fourth-grade math since 2017. The average reading and math scores of Virginia’s eighth graders also decreased significantly.
As signaled by these scores, COVID-19 exacerbated problems in the Commonwealth’s public school system, but these problems already existed before the pandemic. Part of the problem came from Virginia’s decreasing of proficiency standards on state assessments in 2019 and 2020, which made parents think their children were improving.
Also included in “Our Commitment to Virginia’s Children” is a direction for the Virginia Board of Education to raise expectations for students, tutoring partnerships with Khan Academy and Schoolhouse.world, and a challenge for local school districts to spend their remaining federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
Governor Youngkin’s efforts are a step in the right direction, but more is needed. Giving parents the flexibility and freedom to choose what school is best for their children—through efforts, such as education savings accounts—will provide students a way out of the learning loss disaster in Virginia.
To learn more about learning loss and how tutoring and education freedom can help correct it, click HERE.