Gov. Youngkin highlights ‘All in VA’ plan during visit to Petersburg school

Gov. Youngkin: “I think there’s learnings in Petersburg on how to ramp up quickly that can be shared with other jurisdictions.”
Virginia's Board of Education is considering changing how schools are graded. Governor Youngkin says reforms are needed with 90% of schools accredited despite l
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:37 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Inside Pleasants Lane Elementary School in Petersburg, Gov. Glenn Youngkin read to a group of students, highlighting the importance of literacy as part of his “All in VA” initiative.

The effort, announced during a press conference last week, includes steps Gov. Youngkin believes will combat chronic absenteeism and learning loss suffered during the pandemic.

“Sadly, nearly two-thirds of Virginia’s third through eighth graders are either at risk of failing or failed their math standardized tests, and more than half of our third through eighth graders are at risk for failing or failed their reading tests,” said Gov. Youngkin. “We got to get on this now.”

Petersburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tamara Sterling said the school division is working with the governor’s office to implement the “All in VA” plan.

One focus for the school division is ensuring students attend school every day. Online data from the Virginia Department of Education’s website shows in the last school year, roughly 43% of students missed 10% or more of all school days.

“No longer are the days where we wait till the end of the week to say, ‘Okay, how many kids came to school?’ We’re looking at attendance by 10 a.m. every morning, who’s not here,” said Dr. Sterling. “We’re on the phone calls, we’re in our cars, we’re going to the homes.”

Dr. Sterling also realizes it can be difficult for some kids to get to school and wants to have resources available to help them stay on track.

“We find that it’s a lot more of our elementary students, but some of them are facing so many challenges,” she told NBC12. “Some of them are homeless. Some of them don’t have the resources to make certain they can get up on time to get to school, so that’s what we’re here for.”

Gov. Youngkin’s “All in VA” plan also calls for intensive tutoring programs to fight learning loss.

With help from multiple colleges across the area, Dr. Sterling said they can bring in more tutors to help their students.

“Those tutors are coming on, meeting with our students before, during and after school to make certain literacy is a priority,” said Dr. Sterling.

Virginia State University is also helping Petersburg Schools with teacher shortages through their HERO program, a teacher residency for their education students.

“When you walk into those classrooms of the students that are heroes, amazing things are happening,” said Dr. Sterling. “Students are engaged. They’re talking. It’s a different style of teaching that is going on.”

So far, five VSU education students are part of the program, but the plan is to expand the program.

“I think there’s learnings in Petersburg on how to ramp up quickly that can be shared with other jurisdictions,” said Youngkin.