Youngkin reveals plan to combat learning loss and chronic absenteeism

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is rolling out a series of steps he believes will combat learning loss and chronic absenteeism, which he says got much worse with the pandem
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Governor Glenn Youngkin is rolling out a series of steps he believes will combat learning loss and chronic absenteeism, two issues he says got much worse with the pandemic.

He revealed that the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) numbers show that more than half of elementary and middle school students either failed or are “at risk” of failing their reading and math exams. They prove to still be below pre-pandemic scores.

Math pass rates are still 15 percentage points behind ones before COVID-19. Youngkin says chronic absenteeism in the commonwealth nearly doubled from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2022-2023 school year. It went from 9% to 17%, according to data in the governor’s presentation on Thursday, Sept. 7.

Youngkin wants to create task forces in each school division to find solutions for chronic absenteeism unique to the localities’ needs. Then, he also wants “intensive tutoring” programs to fight learning loss. He wants all of it place by Oct. 16, as he challenged schools to get moving.

The program is called “ALL in VA,” with the “ALL” being attendance, literacy and learning. The initiative aims to reverse the impact of the pandemic on education, which the governor and his team say needs to be all hands on deck.

“We have to change that culture as a community and expect our children to come to school because if we look at the data, the data speaks for itself around our students coming to school in 2018-19. One in 10 students were absent in 2020-23, that number has doubled,” Virginia Department of Education’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons said.

Each task force will comprise community members who can help quickly develop recommendations. Localities would be in charge of creating these groups.

“There are already great, great programs in action, and I wanna share one with you. If you go to school in Louisa County and miss a day of school, you have to make it up in a classroom with a teacher,” Youngkin said.

Tutoring programs would be free for students failing or at risk of failing. The programs will be three to five hours a week in math and reading.

Finding the tutors will be up to the divisions, many of which already face a teacher shortage. The governor did not have a set plan for recruiting but said it could be current or former teachers, college students or volunteers who now want to step into the role.

“We’re going to share every aspect we have,” Youngkin said. “We recognize that you can’t snap your finger and have all the tutors show up. And so we have to work hard in order to in order to make sure that we create these resources. This is why this is all in. This is why we have to come together and use our creativity in order to get people off the sidelines.”

The other part of the governor’s plan is accelerating the expansion of the Virginia Literacy Act through eighth grade, which means more reading specialists and support. The governor says there is a playbook for schools and families to help with these new additions. It will have model ways to go about it.

Each locality will get its own funding, custom to its needs.

“We’re recommending you take 10% of the allotted new funds and put it towards addressing chronic absenteeism, 70% for high-intensity tutoring, 20% to advance and accelerate the Virginia Literacy Act,” Youngkin said.

The governor also says he is working to raise SOL standards, which he said went down the past few years.