VDOE: 2021-2022 SOL results show continuing impact of COVID-19 pandemic

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School testing file(MGN)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 4:33 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Virginia Department of Education released results from the Standards of Learning (SOL) and other state assessments taken by Virginia students last school year on Thursday.

Those results showed that school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact student learning, as student achievement in all areas remained well below pre-pandemic levels, despite one-year gains in most subjects.

The 2021-2022 school year marked the return to in-person learning for all 132 Virginia school divisions and the return to normal levels of student participation in the state testing program.

“The bottom line is that in-person instruction matters. When we compare the 2021-2022 data with achievement in 2020-2021, when the majority of our students were learning remotely or on hybrid schedules, we can see the difference our teachers made once they were reunited with their students in their classrooms,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said.

In mathematics, 66% of students overall passed, compared with 82% before the pandemic.

Gaps between pre-pandemic math performance and achievement in 2021-2022 were much wider among Blacks, Hispanics, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with disabilities.

73% of students overall passed SOL and other state assessments in reading, five points below the pre-pandemic pass rate in 2018-2019. Gaps in reading achievement were wider for Hispanic students and economically disadvantaged students.

Balow said the reading results for 2021-2022 understate the extent of learning loss, especially in the early elementary grades, given the adoption of less-rigorous proficiency standards by the Board of Education when introducing new reading tests during the 2020-2021 school year.

“Had the board retained the pre-pandemic level of rigor on the reading SOLs, we would be looking at less recovery in reading,” Balow said.

A VDOE analysis showed a strong correlation between in-person instruction during 2020-2021 and higher achievement on the 2021-2022 SOLs.

69% of students who experienced in-person instruction for nearly all of 2020-2021, and 62% of students who experienced in-person instruction for most of 2020-2021 passed their 2021-2022 math tests, compared with 39% and 37% who experienced nearly all or mostly remote instruction, respectively.

“Moving forward, we must restore a culture of high expectations for every child in every school in the Commonwealth,” Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said. “This includes working with the Board of Education to raise standards, increase transparency and create an accountability system that drives improvement and sets grade-level achievement as the goal for every child.”

In reading, 75% of students who experienced in-person instruction for nearly all of 2020-2021, and 69% of students who experienced in-person instruction for most of 2020-2021 passed in 2021-2022, compared with 39% and 37% who experienced nearly all or mostly remote instruction, respectively.

With the exception of writing, students overall and students in all demographic groups made progress in 2021-2022, compared with performance during 2020-2021.

The next step in addressing learning loss will be individualized progress reports for some students in grades 1-8. That will allow parents to see where their children are succeeding and where they have fallen behind.

The department will pilot the progress reports in selected school divisions before making them available for students and parents statewide.

The state budget signed by Governor Glenn Youngkin last month includes a historic $3.2 billion in direct aid to school divisions. Nearly $10 million will implement the Virginia Literacy Act and $7 million will hire additional reading specialists.

The spending plan also allocates $100 million to launch innovative college laboratory schools in partnership with Virginia colleges and universities.

The 2021 General Assembly provided $40 million to school divisions during the 2021-2022 school year to address learning loss. In addition, school divisions have received $3.2 billion in federal funding since 2020 under three pandemic relief acts to address learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic.

For more information on SOL test results for specific schools, school divisions, and the state by grade level, course, and content area, click here.

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