Virginia’s public schools have continued to improve, but achievement gaps have persisted, according to a new report issued by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
The report noted that the commonwealth’s K-12 schools improved in academic achievement and accountability by almost every state and national measure. This has kept Virginia schools among the best in the nation for performance.
In 2019, Virginia ranked third in the country for student achievement, according to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2019 report. The Quality Counts report takes into consideration student performance on national assessments in reading and mathematics, graduation rates and achievements on Advanced Placement examinations.
The commonwealth’s public schools saw a three-point improvement in average combined SAT scores from 2018 to bring the number to 1,113. This is 74 percent higher than the national average for seniors. Nearly two-thirds of high-school seniors took this test. Seniors in the commonwealth also performed well on the ACTs; the percentage of graduating students who met the college-readiness benchmark in every content area was 20 points above the national average: 46 percent to 26 percent. The students also beat the national average in every category by 12 points or more.
On-time graduation rates stayed the same: 91.5 percent.
However, Virginia was one of 17 states that saw a decrease in fourth- and eight-grade reading performance for National Assessment of Educational Progress from 2017 numbers. Fourth-grade students dropped by four points and eighth grade students dropped by six. The national average was also down.
Total student population grew by five percent, but the number of economically disadvantaged students rose by a much higher number: 31 percent.
Virginia ranked around the middle of the pack at 26 in local and state per-pupil funding, but because 51 percent of school funding is provided by localities, low-income communities do not share equally in the funding. Over the past decade, the per-pupil funding from the state has gone down eight percent in real dollars.
“Virginia ranks as one of the wealthiest states in the country, but is one of seventeen states with ‘regressive’ school funding, meaning less funding is provided to high-poverty divisions than wealthier divisions, and is among the most inequitable,” the report noted. “Based on a 2018 analysis, high poverty divisions in Virginia get 89 cents for every dollar compared to low poverty divisions. … Too often our schools in high poverty areas do not have access to the same funding that schools in low-poverty areas do, and they have greater numbers of students that require access to additional services in order to receive the full benefit of the education being offered.”
The report also found that Virginia has a growing shortage of high-quality educators. The number of unfilled positions is more than 2.6 times higher than it was a decade ago and the number of inexperienced teachers continued to increase as well.