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Critics say Virginia Republicans are using SOL scores to further politicize education – The Virginian-Pilot

It’s been a busy summer for Deborah DeJesus.

Owners of two tutoring centers said their clients are up as many parents worry their children are struggling to keep up with schoolwork due to pandemic-related setbacks. .

“Many kids are definitely being left behind,” says DeJesus, who owns Sylvan Learning in Williamsburg and Newport News. did.”

Few would argue that distance learning hurts student performance. However, many schools across the country have opted for online classes in the midst of the pandemic due to safety concerns for students and teachers.

Virginia Republicans who opposed school closures appear to be taking a winning lap amid below-average standardized test scores in Virginia released Thursday, but critics say they misses the point.

“No one believed that limiting in-person instruction during the pandemic would be beneficial to student achievement,” James J. Federman, president of the Virginia Education Association, said in a statement Friday. Stated. “This was never a political issue. It was always about saving lives.”

Virginia public schools closed in March 2020 amid fears of the virus and its rapid spread.

Over 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19. Many others suffer the long-term effects of the disease. For example, a child is up to 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes after a coronavirus infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Discussions about test scores and other student performance should be tempered in light of the somber reality of the trade-off between the need for safety and human life during a pandemic,” Federman said. I was.

But Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his appointees did not mention the reasons behind the school closures during this week’s debate on learning standards scores released Thursday. , continues to be lower than it was a few years before the pandemic.

Public Education Superintendent Gillian Barrow, recently appointed by Youngkin, said on a conference call that the results show the importance of face-to-face learning.

“Students whose schools were closed for face-to-face instruction suffered the most,” she said. “It’s important to attend school in person.”

In a statement Thursday, Youngkin said he had taken aim at closing schools and was elected to restore “high expectations and excellence” in education. has been outspoken about its pandemic precautions.

“The SOL results released today show that prolonged school closures have undeniably exacerbated the learning losses experienced by Virginia students,” said Youngkin.

Republican Speaker of the Virginia House of Representatives Todd Gilbert, representing the 15th District, also attended.

“Our school closures and subsequent distance learning will be remembered as one of the greatest mistakes in the history of the federal education system,” he said in a statement Thursday. We are committed to resolving this unacceptable situation by ensuring our schools are of the highest standards.”

Federman said it was disappointing that the problems faced by the school during the pandemic had become politicized, but that was Youngkin’s pattern.

“Since this governor took office, he’s just pitted parents against educators,” he said.

Youngkin has frequently focused on issues related to education. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order aimed at banning mask mandates in schools. He also launched an email tipsline for parents and others earlier this year to report educators who are teaching so-called “divisive concepts” such as important racial theories. This has garnered national attention.

Most recently, Youngkin attended a meeting of the Virginia State Board of Education. It was an unusual move for him as governor. For he was preparing to consider delaying the review process of the new historical standards.

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Jatia Righton, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, said it was clear the governor was using the issue of education to rally his supporters.

“I don’t think it’s common for a governor to put this much emphasis on education. It’s not the way he talks about it,” she said.

Wrighten, a former K-12 teacher, said Youngkin was particularly surprised because of his lack of teaching experience.

The professor said politicians may want to think twice before politicizing issues surrounding students and schools. doesn’t help either.

“Why is there a shortage of teachers in Virginia?

“The politicization of education has made it very difficult to attract good teachers and retain the qualified teachers that are out there today.”

Katie King,